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prepared by 

the Leningrad Institute of Philosophy 

under the Direction of 

M. Shirokov 

consisting of Four Parts. 

The Last Three Parts — 

being an Exposition of 

Dialectical Materialism — 

have been Translated without Alteration 

from the Russian : 

But the First Part — 
being an Historical Introduction to 

Marxist Philosophy 

and to the Theory of Knowledge — 

has been Condensed 

and entirely Rewritten 

by the English Editor 

who alone takes Responsibility 

for this Section. 

The Whole Book 

has been Translated by 

A. G. Moseley, 

and the Translation has been Revised and Edited by 
John Lewis, B.Sc, Ph.D. 

The Publishers are 

Victor Gollancz Limited 

14 Henrietta Street 

Govent Garden 

London W.C.2 


Printed in Great Britain by 
The Gamelot Press Ltd., London and Southampton 



Section I 


Chapter I. The Conflict between- Idealism and 

II. Dialectic as a Theory of Knowledge 

III. Moments of Knowledge of Actuality 

IV. The Doctrine of Truth 

A 7 

• 33 


Section II 

Chapter I. The Law of the Unity and Conflict of 

Opposites p. I33 

II. The Division of Unity, the Disclosure of 

Essential Opposites 145 

III. Mutual Penetration of Opposites 162 

IV. Analysis of the Movement of the Con- 

tradiction of a process from its Begin- 
ning- to its End 

V. The Relativity of the Unity of Opposites 
and the Absoluteness of their Conflict 
VI. Theory of Equilibrium 





Section III 


Chapter I. From Naive Dialectic to the Metaphysic 

of Properties p. 211 

II. From the Metaphysic of Properties to the 

Metaphysic of Relations 222 

III. Quality and the S elf Movement of Matter 235 

IV. The Relativity of Qualities and the 

Universal Connection of Things 248 

V. The Dialectic of Quality and Property 264 

VI. The Transition of Quantity into Quality 280 

VII. Contradiction and the Evolutionary Leap 294 

VIII. The Dialectic of the " Leap " 311 

IX. The Transition of Quality into Quantity 319 

X. The Problem of" Levelling Down " 330 

XI. The Nodal Line of Measurements 346 

Section IV 


This volume was originally prepared by the Lenin- 
grad Institute of Philosophy as a textbook in Dialectical 
Materialism for institutions of higher education directly 
connected with the Communist Party and also for use in 
the Technical Institutes which correspond to Universities 
in Great Britain. 

This particular textbook was specially selected by the 
Society for Cultural Relations in Moscow (VOKS) as the 
best example they could find of the philosophical teaching 
now being given in the Soviet Union not only to students 
of philosophy but to engineers, doctors, chemists, teachers, 
in fact to all who pass through the higher technical schools 
and institutes. 

In the original work Part I, which consisted of an 
historical introduction to Marxist Philosophy and the 
Theory of Knowledge, was of considerable length and 
included illustrations which would not be familiar to 
English students. But as it is really quite impossible to 
comprehend the philosophy of Marx and Engels without 
some knowledge of the development of philosophy up to 
Hegel, this section has been considerably condensed and 
entirely rewritten by the English editor who takes entire 
responsibility for this part of the work. The original authors 
did not cover this familiar ground in the manner of a 
conventional history of philosophy but from the Marxist 
point of view, and this whole method of approach has, of 
course, been faithfully followed in the rewritten section. 

The English editor has also contributed an introduction 
relating the whole work to philosophical thought in the 
West to-day. 


Sections II, III and IV comprise the exposition of 
Marxist Philosophy by the Russian authors themselves. 

In placing this textbook before English-speaking 
students it is hoped that serious consideration may be 
drawn to the claims of a philosophy which in its challenge 
to philosophical orthodoxy raises issues to which recent 
critical studies in Western science and philosophy are 
giving increasing attention. 

John Lewis 


oome little assistange is needed to those who sit 
down for the first time to read a book on dialectical 
materialism, written by Russians for Russian students. 
The very name of the new philosophy raises questions. 
What is dialectic ? Is the new philosophy really no more 
than the discredited materialism of the nineteenth century ? 
The book itself will be the best answer to these questions 
but it may help towards the understanding of the book if 
we take these two fundamental difficulties, which probably 
disconcert a good many would-be students of dialectical 
materialism, and endeavour to throw some light on them 
from the standpoint of Western philosophy. 

What is Dialectic ? 

Dialectical thought is the study of things in their relations 
and in process of development and change. " The opposite 
of dialectics is the isolated consideration of things, and the 
consideration of things only in their fixity." It is dialectical 
to look out for the special characteristics of a thing in a 
new set of relations and then to adapt one's forms of thought 
to the new form which reality has taken. Dialectics, there- 
fore, is not an abstract system of logic which men are asked 
to accept, it is necessary because the nature of the world 
requires it. There are no fixed properties in the concrete 
world, therefore there should be no fixed concepts in our 
science. There are no final scientific laws, therefore our 
thought must avoid dogmatic finality. 

A rationalist may try to make out that nature shows a 
smooth continuous progression from simple to complex in 



which the higher, if we knew enough detail, could be 
predicted from the lower. But this conception of uniformity 
is one of those static moulds into which man pours his 
thought and in doing so does violence to reality. For nature 
is not continuous but discontinuous. It cannot be reduced 
to mere variations of one fundamental reality. In reality 
there is novelty and therefore gaps between the old and 
the new. Now if by reason itself one means precisely con- 
tinuity and unchangeability then nature is irrational 
Dialectics, however, challenges this conception of reason 
and moulds thought to the changing surface of events. 
In other words it gives us a conception of reason derived 
from the living nature of reality, not from a man-made 
static logic. 

Non-dialectical thinking, on the other hand, is always 
getting itself into difficulties. How, for instance, is the 
control of the physiological mechanism by mind to be 
explained ? Static thinking finds it difficult to show how 
mind can possibly affect matter except by a miracle. That 
is because by matter is meant a physiological mechanism 
such as is found before mind has anything to do with it. 
Such matter is mindless. But since mind certainly exists 5 
and since it has nothing to do with mindless organic matter, 
it must be a thing apart, pure mind. The riddle then is how 
mind and matter interact. There would be no riddle but 
for static thinking. Dialectical thought allows the concept 
of matter to change from one evolutionary level to another. 
At one level matter is mindless, at the next it is minded. 
Matter itself thinks when organized in a brain. Because 
the ^properties of matter outside the grey matter of the 
brain do not include thought, that is not to say that in the 
unique set of conditions which obtain in the brain quite 
new properties may not emerge. 

Dialectical thinking is particularly important in politics. 
There it is often called realism. Instead of trying to force 
social change according to certain abstract ideals, the 
realist is bound to take the situation as it is at its particular 
stage of development and frame his policies accordingly. 



Quixotic idealists are anti-dialectical. Good tacticians, 
STstactl P racti cal judgment think dialectically, not 

Every successful scientist, engineer and physician is a 
dialectician because his thought conforms to the stuff he 
works in and enables him to handle it. He cannot do his 
thinking m isolation from reality. 

Dialectical thinking is not an esoteric secret, it is simply, 
the way to think in relation to the world one wishes to 
control, therefore it can be said that all effective thinkin? 
is dialectical. & 

Why Materialism ? 

By materialism we usually mean either the reduction of 
all phenomena to inert matter and its movements, or the 
evaluation of life in terms of eating and drinking. Dialec- 
tical materialism means neither of these things. Where it 
differs from every form of Idealism is in its belief that in 
the evolution of the universe the non-living preceded the 
living. There was a time when there was no mind Mind 
is a characteristic of matter at a high stage of its develop- 
ment. Dialectical materialism fully recognizes the progres- 
sive enrichment of evolving matter from level to level 
and fully accepts the reality of mind and of spiritual 
values. c 

It is only mechanistic materialism thinking statically 
instead of dialectically that shuts its eyes to such obvious 
facts. Dialectical thinking is strictly empirical, and this 
may be regarded as another aspect of its materialism. 
Whatever facts emerge in experience must be recognized 
5^ ty anscenden tal objects it does not recognize. In the 
Middle Ages therewas a fierce controversy between nominal- 
ists and realists. The nominalists said that concepts are 
only products of human thought, and that real existences 
are always concrete and individual. The realists asserted 
that ideas and ideals have an actual existence of their own 
Plato held that Beauty exists in the ideal world from which 



it descends to dwell for a moment only in beautiful objects, 

which all eventually lose their beauty. 
In this controversy the dialectical materialist would be 

wholly on the side of the nominalists and against Plato. 

Beauty exists, but never apart from beautiful things. Good- 
ness exists but never apart from good people. Thought 
exists but not apart from brains. The simple truth is that 
form and matter are inseparable, but at the same time 
distinct. The form that matter takes may be the form of 
beauty or of thought, .the form is real but it is always a 
form of matter. That is sound Aristotelianism as well as 
sound dialectical materialism, and it would trouble no one 
if we did not so frequently assume that platonic mysticism 
is the only respectable philosophy. 

Dialectical materialism therefore does not believe in the 
dualism of soul and body. But it does not therefore deny 
the existence of mind. The modern psychology which does 
not require " a soul," and therefore rejects both interac- 
tionism and parallelism, does not reduce mental processes 
to physiological, but discovers in the organism at a certain 
level of brain development a control of behaviour in terms 
of foresight and purpose. It is as unnecessary to attribute 
this new function to the indwelling of a soul as to explain 
sensation in the lower animals in this way. Granted a 
sufficiently developed brain a new pattern of behaviour 
becomes possible and actually appears. This shows that the 
organism when it attains a given complexity has new pro- 
perties which must neither be reduced to physiological 
reflexes nor attributed to the intrusion of some alien 

Emergent Evolution 

Dialectical materialism recognizes the emergence of new 
qualities at different levels. 

^ This. evolutionary ■materialism is sometimes known as 
"emergent evolution," and has been ably expounded 
by Lloyd Morgan, Alexander and Roy Wood Sellars. 


J 3 

Unfortunately it is sometimes compromised by being com- 
bined with philosophical parallelism in order to give to the 
evolutionary process a teleological character. But it is 
unnecessary to postulate a directive spiritual force if, as 
the emergent evolutionists themselves demonstrate, the 
material factors at any one stage are in themselves sufficient 
cause for the next. Most evolutionists therefore already 
hold the dialectical rather than the vitalist or parallelist 
form of emergent evolution. 

The doctrine of emergence is of the greatest importance 
for the whole question of development and change in 
nature. Although development implies the emergence of 
novelty, scientists are extremely sensitive to any tampering 
with the principle of continuity. But a doctrine of pure 
continuity rules out the emergence of the really new, since 
everything is a combination of the original elements. 
The result is that in defence of continuity evolution itself 
may be denied, since without real change evolution is 
meaningless. On the other hand in defence of change con- 
tinuity may be denied, in which case once again there is 
no evolution. Two possibilities are open, one can merely 
assert that as an empirical fact there is both change and 
continuity. But the mind is unsatisfied with what falls 
short of a rational explanation. The other possibility is 
afforded by the new dialectic which repudiates the dis- 
junctive method in thinking which is responsible for all these 
difficulties. The disjunctive method treated existences as 
mutually exclusive and owning their content. The dialectical 
or conjunctive method treats them as interpenetrating and 
sharing their content. Thus a special character in some 
object, is not derived from the character of its components 
taken severally but from the distinctive relationships of 
these components, from a special configuration. There is 
a function jointly exercised. This avoids the error of 
demanding that if a new quality emerges at a given moment 
it must have emerged from somewhere. Where was it before 
it emerged ? This puts the whole question wrongly. Emer- 
gence is treated like the emergence of a duck from beneath 



the surface of a pond. If it appears it must have been under 
the water before. But that is not what emergence means 
at all. When two colourless fluids are mixed and the result 
is a red fluid the redness was nowhere before it emerged ; 
it is a character belonging to a particular configuration. 
Dialectical materialism will have nothing to do with 
hylozoism or panpsychism; it does not believe that life 
and mind have always existed in imperceptible degrees 
and had only to grow in quantity until they were big 
enough to be noticed, thus emerging. It believes that they 
appeared for the first time at a definite period in 
the history of matter, and that they are the inevitable 
consequence or concomitant of certain material pat- 

When it comes to defining the agent of change, dialectical 
materialism has its most suggestive theory to offer. Its 
conception of movement and contradiction as inherent in 
all matter and all relationships is, of course, derived by 
inversion from Hegel. What Hegel and Bradley show to 
be the inherent instability of any particular relationship 
as conceived, Marx shows to be characteristic of all relation- 
ships as concrete, as well as conceived. Development through 
contradiction is not due to some mystical force working 
within the material content of the world, but is an observed 
characteristic of all life and matter. Contradictions and 
their emergence do not have to be projected into facts 
quite innocent of them, you have only to examine reality 
to find them. To be convinced of the dialectic of nature, 
look around you ! 

The Dialectic of Social Change 

It is not only in physical and biological phenomena that 
dialectical development takes place. It is the driving force 
behind human evolution and social development. 

Man is partly determined by his environment. But bis 
relation to his environment is not a static one. In the first 
place the environment itself is as much the creation of man 


as man is the creation of the environment. Interaction is 
continuous. The changes wrought by man react on man 
himself and then man proceeds to yet further changes. Man 
fells forests and practises a crude husbandry, as a conse- 
quence soil erosion sets in and man launches vast irrigation 
projects like the Tennessee Valley experiment, which in 
turn change the social habits and industrial structure of a 
whole area, introducing electrification, scientific agriculture, 
new industries and a new level of social development. But 
this awakens the fierce antagonism of vested interests outside 
the Tennessee Valley so that the relation of the district to its 
environment, politically, brings into existence new internal 
movements and institutions. It is such mutual influences and 
corresponding adjustments which lead, not only to gradual 
change, but, after a cumulative process of parallel modifica- 
tion, to a revolution. 

The process of soil erosion is gradual and homogeneous. 
However far it is prolonged it does not of itself become a 
series of dams and irrigation canals ; but when the social 
pressure due to erosion and its consequences reaches a cer- 
tain degree of intensity the social organism produces 
a mutation and grapples with the environment in a new 
way. It is human intervention in the manner rendered 
necessary by the actual conditions that revolutionizes the 
situation. But it is also worth noting that a failure to inter- 
rupt the gradual process of erosion itself leads to abrupt and 
violent changes, to disastrous floods, to famines, and to 
social collapse. 

To take another example. The pressure of the law of 
supply and demand on the price of labour power causes the 
workers to form trade unions, restrict the supply of labour, 
and get a better price for it, a better wage. The employers 
policy thus produces an opposite tendency. But the trade 
union eventually finds that competitive industry cannot 
afford to pay a living wage, whereupon it has to fulfil a 
new role or perish. It must struggle for power, to supersede 
the employing class, and in so doing pass beyond the two- 
class economic system in which one section owns the tools 



and the other sells-its labour power. The continuance of the 
old struggle is rendered impossible by the accumulation of 
parallel or converging changes resulting from the inter- 
relatedness of economic factors and social movements. It 
is not a pendulum movement, or simple action and reac- 
tion, but a condition of deadlock, of crisis, to which these 
converging changes have inevitably led. The impasse 
shows itself in a choking of the forces of production, a 
paralysis, leading to fierce competitive struggle for economic 
existence and, unless something is done, to war and social 
chaos. But the moment the transition is effected the whole 
face of things is transformed, the whole structure of things 
is re-patterned. Certain entities disappear, others come 
into existence. Eternal laws vanish. Values change. Human 
nature itself changes. There is no human institution that is 
the same afterwards. In particular the weight of various 
factors is altered. What had been feeble and unable to grow 
in the old order is released and stimulated and becomes a 
dominant force. As an example consider adult education 
for workers. Under capitalism this remains puny and in- 
effective nor is it possible to get it beyond a certain point 
no matter what efforts are made. But in a workers' state, 
where workers rule and industry is self-governing, an 
immense impetus to education is received, and a remarkable 
release of latent forces occurs. 

Note the importance and fruitfulness of this conception, 
how many knots it unties and controversies it clears 
up. Endless confusion results from persistently refusing 
to admit the change of properties which a new pattern 
brings with it, to admit the disappearance of old laws 
and the emergence of new ones consequent upon such 

Our example has been a social one. It might just as well 
have been biological. It is a similar process wherever you 
find it. The properties of matter in all its forms are relative. 
Changes in matter are always arising out of the situation 
caused by the self-development of a given situation. Such 
changes always lead to new properties and laws emerging 



and a new relation between object and environment. Dialec- 
tical materialism analyses the laws of evolutionary change 
and applies them to society as well as to nature. 

Dialectics and Metaphysics 

Dialectical materialism takes up a somewhat hostile 
attitude to metaphysics. Why is this ? It is because " the 
persistent problems of philosophy " are not, as is usually 
supposed, merely problems for thought, but problems in- 
separably connected with stages in social development 
which carry with them contradictions insoluble at these 
particular levels. 

For instance the failure of a pre-scientific world to under- 
stand nature creates special intellectual problems for the 
philosophy of that period which only clear up when science 
advances. Or again, before the discovery of emergent 
evolution philosophy will be troubled with dualism and 
vitalism, and there will be no help for it. 

These very problems of pre-Marxian philosophy indicate 
that men are not yet in the position to solve them. Now it 
is the false formulation of a problem that creates a philos- 
ophy. Restate it correctly and the problem disappears — 
and so does the philosophy ! There are no insoluble prob- 
lems in philosophy but only problems wrongly stated. 
Hence most contemporary metaphysics is due either to 
ignorance or to confusion of thought. The list of meta- 
physical problems which disappear as we proceed to higher 
organizational levels is a long one and in recent years a 
school of logical positivists has appeared which threatens 
to sweep the last of them away. In certain respects the 
logical-positivists approach the position of dialectical 
materialism but their view is a purely logical one and takes 
no cognizance of the changes in thought due to social 

Ayer in his recent book, Language, Truth and Logic, says 
that metaphysics must eventually disappear, because it 
tries to say something about what is not matter of fact, 



whereas the only way to avoid senselessness is either to 
explam the use of the words and special terms we use (called 
by Ayer and Russell "symbols") or to say something 
verifiable about matter of fact. To consider anything at all 
as easting prior to and independent of the concrete is com- 
plete folly unless we are working out mere logical possibili- 
ties, clearing up the meaning of language, stating in advance 
how we propose to think, and what is going to count for us 
as proof. Apart from this, which is the real job of philosophy, 
the only other kind of truth is matter of fact, which must be 
verifiable m principle by some future sense-experience To 
affirm what is not empirically verifiable is to talk nonsense. 
Professor Schhck of Vienna, writes : 

" What about metaphysics ? It is evident that our view 
entirely precludes the possibility of such a thing Any 
cognition we can have of < Being/ of the inmost nature 
at things, is gained entirely by the special sciences; they 
are the true ontology, and there can be no other. Each 
true scientific proposition expresses in some way the real 
nature of thmgs-if it did not, it would simply not be 
true. So in regard to metaphysics the justification of our 
view is that it explains the vanity of all metaphysical 
efforts, which has shown itself in the hopeless variety of 
systems all struggling against each other. Most of the so- 
called metaphysical propositions are no propositions at 
ail, but meaningless combinations of words ; and the rest 
are not metaphysical ' at all, they are simply concealed 
scientific statements, the truth or falsehood of which can 
be ascertained by the ordinary methods of experience 
and observation. (In the future) Metaphysical tendencies 
will be entirely abandoned, simply because there is no 
such thing as metaphysics, the apparent descriptions of it 
being just nonsensical phrases." 

Dialectical Materialism and Contemporary Philosophy 

The « logical-analytical method " of Wittgenstein and 
his followers is by no means the only modern philosophy 



that approximates in certain points to the new dialectic. 
Benedetto Croce, for all his errors, is condemning abstract- 
ness when he insists that philosophy is identical with his- 
tory and that both are the self-consciousness of life itself. 
Troeltsch, many of whose positions are open to the gravest 
criticism, is right when he insists that the fundamental 
philosophical question is what is the main trend of historical 
matter of fact and how does it dominate each special 
domain, such as law, education, art, politics, and philos- 
ophy, and in his insistence that historical activism should 
supersede historical contemplation. Whitehead's energetic 
opposition to the whole Kantian bifurcation of nature and 
mind is a wholesome reaction from dualism. 

It would appear, in fact, that not onlv are scientific dis- 
coveries confirming the standpoint of 'dialectical mater- 
ialism but that Western philosophers are increasingly dis- 
carding metaphysical concepts, though still reluctant to 
accept an outlook which undermines the buttresses of the 
existing order. 

There is, however, one tendency in recent Western 
philosophy with which the dialectical materialists are 
thoroughly familiar, though we are not as thoroughly 
acquainted as we should be with their treatment of it. This 
is due to an historical accident. In 1908 a group of leading 
Russian socialists living in exile in Capri, became pro- 
foundly interested in the new positivism of Mach and 
Avenarius. They proceeded to recast philosophical Marxism 
along positivist lines. Lenin at once saw that this philosophy 
was both unsound and also anti-socialist in its implications. 
He proceeded to write an exhaustive criticism which dis- 
played a surprising knowledge of philosophy and a clear 
grasp of the question at issue. Lenin's Materialism and 
Emptno-Crtttasm has never been sufficiently appreciated 
by philosophers although it was one of the first and most 
trenchant criticisms of a sceptical system which so far from 
disappearing has grown widely in recent years. This 
scientific positivism has been popularized in recent years 
by Eddington, Bertrand Russell and others in science and 



by Durkheim and Levy Bruhl in sociology. As Lenin 
rightly discerned, it opens wide the door to solipsism and 
superstition and has been eagerly seized upon by theologians 
to buttress, irrationalism and supernaturalism. It therefore 
happens that this criticism as developed in modern dia- 
lectical materialism is immediately relevant to much 
contemporary philosophy and surprisingly up-to-date. 

Philosophy and Politics 

No exposition of dialectical materialism can proceed for 
long without an excursion into political controversy. Again 
and again in this textbook we shall meet with practical 
applications to contemporary Russian problems. At first 
this may appear disconcerting and irrelevant, but a great 
deal would be lost if the theory remained on the abstract 
plane and never allowed itself to be mingled with practice. 

In fact this is quite impossible, for this philosophy first 
of all reflects every kind of material and social change and 
helps us to understand it, and of such changes none are so 
important as political changes. Secondly, however, since 
political change requires above all things just such an 
understanding of events, a philosophy of this sort will itsel 
be an indispensable agent of such change. Hence the 
political importance of this philosophy. Under these 
circumstances k is not difficult to understand two pecu- 
liarities of communist philosophy, firstly it is taken seriously 
by everyone in Russia and is studied and debated univer- 
sally with great insistence on correct conclusions ; secondly, 
no discussion proceeds very far without plunging into 
political controversy. The first peculiarity will occasion 
suspicion in those who are influenced by the apparent 
irrelevance of ordinary philosophy to real problems in life 
and politics. But is it unimportant to reach correct con- 
clusions in aeronautics ? Is it not a matter of life and death ? 
Is it not the responsibility of authority to see that aero- 
nautical engineers are provided with correct and verified 
formulae ? This will explain the earnest and polemical tone 



of Russian political controversy. On more than one occasion 
the preservation or destruction of the new civilization has 
depended on a right understanding of social change and 
the transvaluations brought about by repatterning. The 
great collective farm controversy is a case in point. This 
has become the classical working example by means of 
which every phase of dialectical materialism is demon- 

The second peculiarity arises from the insistence on the 
material unity of the world. We are here in this real world 
and all our thinking is about it. Moreover we think about it 
not as if we were looking at it from the moon, but because 
it is a going concern and we are on it. Every moment it is 
doing something and going somewhere, and it does nothing 
of itself. Its direction and its action are due to our activity 
■ and our thought. The job of philosophy is not to explain, 
to analyse, to sum up as good or bad, as rational or irra- 
tional, a finished universe outside itself, but to take the 
primary responsibility of understanding how the world 
changes and in directing that change. Philosophy is the 
self-consciousness of a self-moving, self-directing world in 
process of progressive development. 

Its goodness is not a fixed quantity but may be more 
to-morrow according to whether we know how to improve 
it. It is not either rational or irrational. It is as irrational as 
our ignorance and lack of control. 

If philosophy is the analysis of social development 
we can understand the frequent incursions of dialectical 
materialism into the realm of social action. The contact is 
as close as that between the research department of a 
medical school and the hospital. Western philosophers who 
feel a little resentful and irritated at this philosophy of 
action might remember that it was Bradley who said, 
" There is no more fatal enemy than theories which are not 
also facts," and that both Plato and Hegel would have 
warmly approved of this indissoluble connection of politics 
and philosophy. It is a fin de siecle intellectualism that finds 
itself " above the battlefield." 




Determinism and Freedom 

This brings us to another characteristic of Russian philos- 
ophy. It is often supposed that the materialist conception 
of history is a form of fatalism. Nothing could be farther 
from the truth. On the contrary it holds that man is a self- 
directing organism. But consciousness and physiological 
processes are not two separate things. The organism man 
is a physiological mechanism that knows what it is doing. 
The mistake hitherto has been to make a false antithesis. 
If a physiological mechanism then not self-directing, if self- 
directing then parallelism or interactionism. Modern 
psychology, and also dialectical materialism, goes back to 
Aristotle, man is a " minding " animal. " Consciousness, 
instead of being a stream outside of the process of physio- 
logical change, is simply a characteristic of some facts of 
organic behaviour, "i When a particular movement is made 
which intervenes in the course of events, that particular 
movement is only explicable on the ground that when it 
took place the organism knew what the effect on his en- 
vironment was going to be before it occurred. 

This is also true socially. Man is conditioned but not 
determined by social structure and the stage of economic 
development. An airman is most strictly conditioned by 
the laws of flight and his machine, by the changing at- 
mosphere and his supplies of petrol and electricity; but 
he is free in so far as he accepts, understands, and utilizes 
those conditions. Freedom is the knowledge of necessity. 
If you want to loop the loop you must do this and that, and 
there are some things that cannot be done at all. So in 
politics, you can only find out what to do, what is possible 
and what impossible, what is profitable and what profitless, 
by knowing what stage of development society has reached, 
what contradictions are maintaining the tension of the 
structure, what forces are weakening and what are streng- 
thening, in what direction society must move to escape 
impasse or disaster ! Moreover such knowledge is not 
1 Everett Dean Martin, Psychology, ch. v. 


astronomical, as though watching a collision of heavenly 
bodies which an observer could only predict. It is operative. 
The measure of knowledge determines the measure and 
quality of control. There may be stages in which men and 
whole classes act almost instinctively if they are to carry 
social development to a farther stage, but this is the age in 
world evolution at which -man for the first time comes to 
social self-consciousness and takes himself on to the next 
stage. Hence Lenin fiercely opposed the popular doctrines 
of " drift," of leaving it to the instinctive upsurge of the 
masses, the theorists and " leaders " merely coming in at 
the tail. Lenin even coined the phrase Khvostism—" tailism " 
—to denote this lagging behind. He argued that by " set- 
ting up the " spontaneous " movements of the imperfectly 
conscious mass into the one law of the labour movement, 
this theory ruled out the constitution of an organized 
revolutionary party and had for its inevitable consequence 
the abandonment of all political action to the bourgeois 
liberals."i Hence the importance of the task of bringing the 
whole working class to consciousness, since it is their historic 
mission to emancipate the world. Hence the permeation of 
the Russian proletariat with genuine political education 
and philosophical discussion, which is deliberately denied 
to the masses in fascist countries. It is a genuine attempt 
at popular enlightenment and self-direction and it has 
already gone too far for anyone wishing to keep the 
multitude in tutelage to be able to do so. 

The Impossibility of Dogmatism 

Should the charge of dogmatism be levelled at this 
political education one can point to two characteristics of 
dialectical materialism which are continuously under- 
mining the dogmatic attitude. Firstly its belief in fluid 
concepts. While avoiding pure relativism, dialectical 
materialism drills its students, using scores of examples 

Wor^vol' iv niU ' P ' 4I ' SCe alS ° Lenin ' Wka * is t0 be d ° m ? Collected 



drawn from current politics, in the habit of regarding things 
as changing with changing circumstances both in their 
•properties and in the laws that govern them, and even as 
passing over into their opposites. " Capitalism " is not a 
fixed concept. The capitalism of the nineteenth century was 
progressive. It was releasing the forces of production. 
Capitalism in the world it has thus created is beset by 
difficulties for which its very achievements are responsible. 
It has now become retrogressive. It restricts production 
and moves in the direction of impoverishment, chaos and 
destruction. " Democracy " is not a fixed concept. At first 
it sets the bourgeoisie free to develop capitalism, later it 
may be a facade to delude the politically helpless worker 
that he is governing himself while really he is being gov- 
erned by a veiled dictatorship; later an aroused and suffer- 
ing proletariat trying to use the democratic rights hitherto 
only nominally theirs may find in the defence of their 
constitutional rights against Fascism that the preservation 
of democracy is the proletarian revolution. " Man " is not 
a fixed concept. Human nature is not unalterable. His 
character and habits arise not from fixed instincts but, as 
psychology shows, from conditioning. He is what 'his 
institutions make him, but he made those institutions and 
can make new ones. " The whole of history is nothing but 
the progressive transformation of human nature." Now it is 
impossible for a philosophy of this sort to be dogmatic in 
the vicious sense and, when we remember its stress on 
practice, we see here too a characteristic bound up with 
the doctrine of fluid concepts which also precludes dogmatic 
rigidity. For dogmatism always arises out of abstraction. It 
is when thought is regarded as giving us in itself, apart from 
experience, the pattern of reality that a static system of 
doctrines is built up and can continue. Dialectical material- 
ism creates systems out of reflection on the facts, verifies 
them by action on the facts, and corrects and amplifies 
them by the changes brought about by that very action. 
Its method precludes vicious abstraction. 

If further proof were wanted it can be found in the plain 



fact that the history of Bolshevism has not been marked 
by the rigid enforcement of inflexible dogmas. So far is this 
from being the fact that its enemies have never ceased to 
reproach it with abandoning its principles. How often have 
we not been told that Russia has reverted to capitalism, has 
abandoned Lenin's plans, has betrayed its internationalism 
and so on. It is the opponents of Stalin and the official 
philosophy who have stuck rigidly to dogmatic and 
schematic policies. Of course consistency may be more 
virtuous ' than what may be termed vacillation and 
opportunism, but that is not the point at issue at the 
moment. If the Russians are guilty of this kind of fault 
(if it is a fault) they are certainly not guilty of being 

Does Philosophy matter ? 

We are now more in a position to see why such practical 
people as the Russian -communists are deeply concerned 
about philosophy. It is frequently assumed that a practical 
man can do very well without a philosophy, that the 
religious and metaphysical beliefs of a scientist or a poli- 
tician have no kind of relation to their life's work, and that 
speculation constitutes a more or less leisure time occupation 
like music or golf. 

But the Russian knows that a man's creed matters, that 
it may be a positive force behind exploitation and parasi- 
tism and that you cannot destroy the social disease if you 
do not accompany your political and industrial measures 
with the refutation of capitalist philosophy and the propaga- 
tion of an alternative. It is for this reason that philosophical 
discussion plays such an important part in Russia to-day. 
In every higher technical school, institute, and university 
philosophy is a compulsory subject in the curriculum. Works 
chemists, textile engineers, agricultural experts and school 
teachers are thoroughly trained in philosophy. They know the 
fallacies of the system they repudiate and they have a system 
of their own to be " the master light of all their seeing." 


This will occasion surprise in those who have always 
understood that the first principle of Soviet philosophy was 
the economic determination of ideas. But although no creed 
comes into existence as a mere development of thought and 
out of all relation to social needs yet once a creed is born it 
has an activity and force of its own. If it is believed it will 
help to perpetuate the social system to which it belongs, 
if it is overthrown one of the buttresses of that system will 
be taken away. Therefore the Russian is inclined to believe 
with Chesterton that the practical and important thing 
about a man is his view of the universe. 

" We think that for a landlady considering a lodger, 
it is important to know his income, but still more im- 
portant to know his philosophy. We think that for a 
general about to fight an enemy, it is important to 
know the enemy's numbers, but still more important to 
know the enemy's philosophy." 

There has been no great movement in history that was 
not also a philosophical movement. The time of big 
theories was the time of big results. Our modern politicians 
who call themselves practical and belittle philosophy are 
mediocrities, and their policies are opportunist and 

It is not difficult to see why this is so. In the first place 
the main philosophical tendencies are always closely allied 
to the conflicting social and political movements of the day. 
A totalitarian philosophy lends support to State absolutism. 
Irrationalism fosters political " thinking with your blood." 
In the last century, when Spencer transformed the biologi- 
cal theory of evolution into a philosophy, its theory of 
progress through struggle and the survival of the fittest 
made a popular theoretical instrument for furthering the 
interests of the economic class that throve on competition. 
A philosophy may not be consciously advanced with such 
an aim but it will be seized upon and will spread widely if 
it reinforces the aims of a large section of the community 
engaged in struggle with an opposing class. 



Secondly, fundamental questions are never of purely 
speculative interest, but frequently arise out of or are sug- 
gested by the urgent social problems of the time. Even the 
philosopher who isolates himself and devotes his attention 
to what he imagines to be purely theoretical questions is 
affected by the spirit of the age and is unconsciously an- 
swering its questions. Bradley, a recluse, in his famous essay 
on " My Station and its Duties," argued that the com- 
munity was a moral organism which knows itself in its 
members so that to know what is right we have merely to 
imbibe the spirit of the community. " It is a false con- 
science," he says, " that wants you to be better than the 
world as it is." His essay is largely an apologia for function- 
alism, and functionalism which accepts the present class 
stratification as permanent is simply fascism. 

Why not do without Philosophy ? 

Nor is it possible to avoid all contamination with philos- 
ophy by becoming the perfect philistine and restricting 
one's attention solely to the practical sphere — the tendency 
of British labour leaders. For if the devil of philosophy is 
thrown out and the empty spaces of the mind swept and 
garnished, " Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven 
other devils more wicked than himself, and they enter in 
and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse 
than the first." The mind that is not made up is peculiarly 
susceptible both to atmosphere and to passing fashions, it 
yields all too easily to powerful and specious movements of 
thought and is " tossed to and fro, and carried about with 
every wind of doctrine." The human mind is more eager 
and curious than that of the pragmatic politician, and there 
will not be lacking vehement and persuasive philosophies 
of a dubious character likely to infect those not rendered 
immune by having a considered philosophy of their own. 

It is indeed impossible to keep the mind free from 
philosophy. "We have no choice," says A. E. Taylor, 
" whether we shall form metaphysical hypotheses or not, 



only the choice whether we shall do so consciously and in 
accord with some intelligible principle or unconsciously 
and at random." The philistine's mind is a mass of preju- 
dices, unexamined assumptions, shallow and insufficiently 
substantiated generalities and dogmas. The man who says 
he is no philosopher is merely a bad philosopher. 

The Relation, of Theory and Practice 

This insistence on the importance of " hard facts " is a 
reaction from speculative theories and pure abstraction, 
but sound theory is only the eye of practice and practice is 
blind without it. Just as a doctor must unite a sound know- 
ledge of human physiology and pathology with his prac- 
tical experience and cannot know too much to be a good 
physician, so a politician must understand all there is to 
know of the laws of social change and the structure of 
society if his leadership is to take the class whose interests he 
represents anywhere but on to the rocks. 

The truth is that if form and content, which in this case 
are theory and practice, can be divided so as to be merely 
related they are of little importance. Philosophy and prac- 
tice that fall below a certain standard can be discussed in 
this way ; above that standard, theory and practice are not 
opposed, nor merely related; they are one. There is more 
than a bond — there is union and fusion. 

Whitehead contrasts these two aspects of reason ; the first 
seeking an immediate method of action, the second a com- 
plete understanding. 

" The Greeks have bequeathed to us two figures, whose 
real or mythical lives conform to these two notions — 
Plato and Ulysses. The one shares Reason with the Gods, 
the other shares it with the foxes. Ulysses has no use for 
Plato, and the bones of his companions are strewn on 
many a reef and many an isle I" 1 

1 Whitehead, The Function of Reason. 



Until Philosophers are Kings 

If in previous social crises political leaders could do no 
more than "play by ear" that is not necessary to-day; 
the knowledge of the social process given by the dialectical 
approach provides the basis for a conscious transformation 
of society. The way out is therefore being found by a whole 
class coming to a consciousness of its destiny and it follows 
that the leaders of that class must be enlighteners and 
therefore themselves enlightened. " Till the philosophic 
race have the government of the city, neither the miseries 
of the city nor of the citizens shall have an end, nor shall 
this republic, which we speak of in way of fable, come in 
fact to perfection." 1 

But if rulers must be philosophers that means that in a 
State where the workers rule the workers must themselves 
be philosophers. This accounts for the severe training in 
dialectical materialism which is found in all Russian 
technical and higher education in the Soviet Union. It is 
felt in Russia that an engineer or a chemist who does not 
understand the philosophy of Socialism is not likely to be 
of much use in the new order. That is why thorough train- 
ing in dialectical materialism is universal. Not only are the 
kings all philosophers in the republic, but the workers are 
all kings, or kings in the making. They must all be 
trained for rule and responsibility. " Every kitchenmaid 
must learn to rule the country." 

The result is that every educated Russian has something 
of that philosophic spirit which Shaw remarked in Marx 
when he wrote : 

" . . .he never condescends to cast a glance of useless 
longing at the past, his cry to the present is, always ' Pass 
by; we are waiting for the future.' Nor is the future at 
all mysterious, uncertain or dreadful to him. There is 
not a word of fear, nor appeal to chance, nor to provi- 
dence, nor vain remonstrance with nature . . . nor any 
1 Plato, Republic. 



other familiar sign of the giddiness which seizes men 
when they climb to heights which command a view of 
the past, present and future of human society. Marx keeps 
his head like a god. He has discovered the law of social 
development, and knows what must come. The thread of 
history is in his hand." 

That the Russians are submitting themselves to a 
vigorous intellectual discipline will be clear from the read- 
ing of this book which is not an easy one. It is signifi- 
cant that Hegel's Logic has been translated into Russian 
and has been printed in editions running to tens of thou- 
sands. It is doubtful whether fifty copies a year are sold in 
England. This, coupled with the practical dialectic of 
unending controversy and argument and with the constant 
test of practice, has made of the new philosophy a virile and 
sinewy intellectual instrument. Its outlines are rough and 
its details unfinished. It needs elaboration, expansion, 
much filling in of detail, a good deal of correction and 
revision, but in spite of this it is fundamentally an excellent 
illustration of its own thesis, the emergence on a higher 
level of a new evolutionary type, the fruit of the clash of 
opposites, the working out of older systems to exhaustion 
and yet to fulfilment, a reordering of the whole problem 
of philosophy. 






Man who lives in a world of peril is compelled to 
seek for safety. The way most familiar to us is the control of 
nature. We build houses, weave garments, make flame and 
electricity our friends instead of our enemies and develop 
the complicated arts of social living. This is the method of 
changing the world through action. 

But there is another method. The method of changing the 
self in emotion and idea because it is too. difficult to change 
the world. This is the way first of religion and subsequently 
of philosophy. It begins with propitiation;, but passes at 
length from the attempt to conquer destiny to the resolve 
to ally oneself with it and so perchance escape destruction. 
Out of religion philosophy developed as man came to 
reflect upon this sharp contrast between a feeble, uncertain 
practice and an imaginative apprehension of a supernatural 
world of potencies and certainties. In other words out of 
the conflict of knowledge and practice arises the major 
problem of philosophy and the conflict between idealism 
and materialism. 

As the mythological elements fell away from the religious 
attitude philosophy retold the story of the universe in the 
form of rational discourse instead of emotionalized imagina- 
tion. The result was the apprehension by Reason of an 
ideal world of logical constructions constituting, as it was 
finally declared, "a realm of fixed Being which, when 




grasped by thought, formed a complete system of immutable 
and necessary truth."* Reason provided the patterns to 
which ultimately real objects had to conform. But unfor- 
tunately science and its world falls far short of the logicality 
and unity of the world of pure reason. It is, as it were, an 
inferior world in which things change, which is subject to 
illusion and in which multiformity is more to be found than 
uniformity. But this, unfortunately, is the world of action 
Activity therefore is always of less importance than con- 
templation since it deals with the less real. Hence ever 
since the Greeks philosophy has been ruled by the notion 
that " the office of Knowledge is to uncover the ante- 
cedently real, rather than, as is the case with our practical 
judgments, to gain the kind of understanding which is 
necessary to deal, with problems as they arise. "a 

Right on through Plato, Descartes, Spinoza, Kant and 
Hegel the same quest for the rational and the unchangeable 
was pursued. For Plato the changing and passing forms of 
this world are but the transitory and partial embodiments 
of ideal realities laid up in heaven and only to be appre- 
hended by reason. In the same way our virtues are but 
pale reflections of the perfect virtues which exist in the 
Absolute. I am kind because a little of the perfect kindness 
of God dwells in me for a moment. Thus goodness is an 
almost measurable quality which inheres, in men to a 
greater or less degree. 

Descartes, as we shall see, drew the sharpest pattern of a 
purely logical physical world, so logical in fact as to be 
mathematical. Spinoza,, however, went even farther and 
embraced mental and physical events in one perfectly 
rational whole where the order and connection of ideas 
were proved to be, in reality, the order and connection of 
facts. Kant was still haunted by the obstinate refusal of the 
facts to look as orderly and. connected as they should, and' 
therefore had to assert that in order to be rational all facts 
must be considered within the mind and. fitting neatly into 
its logical, pigeon-holes. Hegel completed the argument by 
1 Dewey, TteQuest for Certainty, p. 18. 2 Dewey, p. 20. 



simply declaring that anything which does not fit the 
pattern is not properly understood and described. If 
you see it completely you will see it to be rational. If it 
is not quite rational that is because you do not really see 
it 'as it is. You are witnessing something illusory and partial. 

The struggle to make things orderly therefore becomes 
not a struggle with nature, but either with our imperfect 
theories, which must be scrapped one by one until at last 
the perfect explanation which comprehends and justifies 
everything, or with our worldly habit of regarding experi- 
ence as more valid than the ideal. A really disciplined 
mind will rise above this appearance of disorder, and grasp 
by spiritual apprehension the goodness and truth that alone 
is real. 

No matter what the detailed conclusions of experience, 
perfect truth and goodness are ours in ultimate Being, 
independently of both experience and human action. 

Thus philosophers have tended to depreciate action, 
doing, making, and the reason has not been entirely the 
impulse of the mind to outrun practical human achieve- 
ment. Work has been despised ever since a class of labourers 
was segregated and set to the world's work. From that 
moment work was done under compulsion and the pressure 
of necessity, while intellectual activity was associated with 
leisure. The social dishonour in which the class of serfs was 
held was extended to the work they did. 

Idealism will always be the popular philosophy of a 
leisured class. This is not a sufficient reason for its existence, 
but it is a condition which favours its rise. Hence the more 
complete the separation between mental and physical 
work, and the greater the degree of exploitation of one 
class by another, the more is this class relationship reflected 
in an idealist philosophy. 

% " The division of labour," says Marx, " does not 
become an actual division until the division of material 
and spiritual work appears. From that moment con- 
sciousness may actually seem to be something other than 



a consciousness of the real world and of the activity 
within that world. As soon as consciousness begins 
actually to represent something, without that something 
being a real representation, we find it ready to free itself 
from world connections and to become a cult of ' pure 
theory,' theology, philosophy, morals, etc." 

It would, however, be a complete mistake to suppose that 
because idealism is a projection of man's yearning for 
order in a disorderly world, or because such phantasies 
flourish among the leisured classes, that it has no justifica- 
tion and no truth. It is justified by the evolution of the 
world towards the ideal of order. It is true, as Leonardo 
said, that "Nature is full of infinite reasons which were never 
in experience,'" and the scientist who does not, in the words 
of Galileo, make headway with reason against experience 
is a very poor scientist indeed. 

The idealist rightly asserts that it is not the function of 
mind merely to reflect the universe, it has in some way to 
participate in it. The materialist is wholly wrong when he 
denies the active role of consciousness and asserts that it 
merely reflects processes that are going on in nature. Con- 
sciousness is no lifeless mirror. In the first place it has itself 
slowly developed along with man and society and is a 
function of social humanity. In the second place it is creative, 
for it is always developing man and society a stage farther, 
planning his activities, devising ways and means, creating 
new institutions. Thus at any given stage consciousness 
is both limited by the social forms which society takes and 
yet is striving, not unsuccessfully, to transcend those limits. 

This free activity of consciousness can be so isolated 
from the conditions which determine it as to appear to be 
the sole creative force of history. In the same way the 
power to generalize and create concepts and theories can 
easily be separated from the action with which true thought 
is always wedded, until this aspect of man's activity becomes 
dominant, self-sufficient, overshadowing everything else. 
At last it breaks away from the concrete man and his tasks 



altogether, especially under such conditions as separate 
the workers and the thinkers among men, and becomes 
" pure thought." Scientific concepts, even, become mental 
fictions or reflections of an " immanent reason " in nature, 
of the spirituality of the universe. In these ways every break 
that thinking makes with practice leads to a one-sided 
idealism. Idealism, in fact, is -nothing more or less than the 
isolation of one feature of knowledge from the whole and the 
turning of it into something absolute, namely the power of 
ideas to reveal the nature of reality and enable us to control 
it, the power to abstract from the complexity of life and 
single out special aspects. 
Thus Lenin writes : 

" Philosophical idealism is nonsense only from the 
standpoint of a crude, simple and metaphysical ma- 
terialism. On the contrary, from the standpoint of 
dialectical materialism, philosophical idealism is a 
one-sided, exaggerated, swollen development (Dietzgen) 
of one of the characteristic aspects or limits of know- 
ledge into a deified absolute, into something dissevered 
from matter, from nature. Idealism means clericalism. 
True ! But philosophical idealism is (more ' correctly ' 
expressed and ' in addition ') a road to clericalism 
through one of the nuances of the infinitely complicated 
knowledge (dialectical) of man. The knowledge of 
man does not follow a straight line but a curved line 
which infinitely approaches a system of circles, the 
spiral. Every fragment, every segment, every bit of this 
curved line can be transformed (transformed one- 
sidedly) into a self-sufficient whole straight line which, 
if one does not see the wood for the trees leads us directly 
into the mire, into clericalism (which is strengthened by 
the class interests of the ruling class)." 

Lenin points out that the result is superstition. What 
does he mean by that ? That it is by means of such idealism 
that the legal standards that regulate social relationships 


are given the sanctity of absolute obligations, and come to 
be regarded as independent forces which . stand above 
society and determine its structure. In the same way 
economic laws are regarded as absolute and precluding 
social change. Utopian socialists come to believe that the 
way to progress lies in creating an imaginative social 
structure, and showing that it is compatible with human 
nature and reason. Idealists believe that social institutions 
are created by ideas, that human history is the result of 
the change of ideas. If anything in society changes, it 
happens because consciousness has changed first. Preachers 
and educationists therefore seek to alter the world by in- 
culcating improved ideas into people's heads, by moralizing 
and indoctrinating. Psychologists see the essence of society 
not in the productive relations of classes but in the instincts, 
feelings and thoughts of people. Even scientists come to 
believe that the laws of nature are not objectively deter- 
mined by nature, but subjectively determined by the 
consciousness of scientists, that the atom is " only a mental 
construction," that the theory of evolution is " a useful 
way of thinking," held because we choose to believe it. 
Even politicians pursue the will-o'-the-wisp of pure idea. 
Trotsky believes in his " destiny," in the mysterious " will 
of the people," apart from strictly defined objective condi- 
tions. Like all idealists, " he treats the possible as the 
actual," he believes in the existence of what he desires 
should be, thus he sought to skip the stage of a bourgeois- 
democratic revolution in 1905, and proceed directly to the 
proletarian revolution. Bukharin lapses into the idealism 
which substitutes doctrinaire formulae and over-schemat- 
ized stages of development for a close objective study of the 
kaleidoscopic changes of the face of society. 

Lenin views this whole process of detachment of ideas 
and ideals, theories and generalizations, from the stand- 
point of the concrete fusion of theory and practice. This is 
that idealism, he argues, that is really superstition, that is 
really myth-making, and the only purpose of such thinking 
(i.e. what the theory means in practice) is to justify things 



as they are in the interests of the owning class and to betray 
reformers into paths of folly and futility. 


But if wish-fulfilment thinking and the false pursuit of 
abstractions have led men to idealism, the inexorable 
demands of the real world have as often pulled them back 
to realism. Idealism has developed and flourished but so has 
science. And always with the growth of science we perceive 
a clearer apprehension of the philosophy of science known 
as materialism and the sworn foe of idealism. To-day we 
have learned to trust the scientist and to look to him to 
get us out of our difficulties. He has had a long struggle 
with ignorance and class interests, but he has triumphed 
over all of us. 

His attitude is totally different from the idealist. He looks 
at the concrete world with all its imperfections, not at the 
ideal world. He looks forward to a richer and fuller life 
here on earth, not to the spiritual contemplation of absolute 
values in eternity. He believes it can be realised by man's 
co-operative effort, utilizing the resources of the earth. 

" Trust in science, and the idea that this world is the 
place of man's destiny, tend to bring about a new 
attitude toward the question of what we are to believe. 
For the investigator first set his foot on the road of 
science when he refused to accept anything as true 
which could not be confirmed by experimental evidence. 
The mystic sought the divine vision through fasting and 
prayer; the philosopher stormed the citadel of reality 
by logic and reasoning. The scientist turned away from 
both ways; and was content to make toilsome progress 
by collecting evidence, sifting and comparing, weighing 
and measuring, limiting the field of enquiry, remaining 
in willing ignorance on everything beyond this field. 
And since he had to fight for his freedom to go beyond 


the other two methods — since often he had to make 
his way in conflict with them — on the whole he came to 
regard his method as necessarily antagonistic to the 
other two ; though in truth I think a sound method has 
something of all three. His success confirmed him in his 
method ; and thus, to-day, experimental evidence comes 
to be regarded as the most satisfactory kind of evidence 
that can be found for statements professing to give 
information about the nature of things." 1 

Modern science was founded in the seventeenth century 
by men who were not materialists but who had a materialis- 
tic conception of matter, without which, indeed, progress 
would have been impossible. They held that matter is 
that which occupies space. It will not move unless some- 
thing pushes it, and if it is moving it will not stop unless 
something stops it. It is not alive or conscious. 

The obvious effect of this view was to separate matter 
and mind and make mind a distinct substance, inhabiting 
the body during life, and withdrawing on the dissolution 
of the body. 

This worked very well as far as matter was concerned, 
but it raised great difficulties about the relation of mind to 
matter. The result was that mind came to be regarded as 
a mere effect of matter and materialism became the popular 

These revolutionary ideas came not as the result of pure 
thought, but of the requirements of an economic and social 
situation. Science was the technical instrument of the 
rising town civilization of the Renaissance, with its growing 
commerce and its need for navigation, surveying, and 
military science. Manufacture was developing, comfort 
was growing, and men took more interest in civilization 
and less in the world to come. But the rising burgher class 
had a stiff fight with the feudal lords, who represented the 
dominant social force of the preceding period ; and on the 
side of feudalism was the Church. 

1 L. J. Russell, Introduction to Philosophy. 



The new science comes in as the ally of the new class, and 
its rationalistic and materialistic philosophy as the oppon- 
ent of the ecclesiastical authority which supported feudal- 
ism. If the wall is to fall the buttress must be undermined. 

Thus, with many qualifications and exceptions and ac- 
knowledging much actual confusion of interests, it may be 
said that the struggle for a new philosophy accompanied 
and assisted the struggle of a new class for economic and 
political power. 

There is no philosophy that is not part of a social system, 
and in the past that has always meant a social hierarchy. 
The mediaeval social order, with its privileged classes, was 
bound up with the cosmogony of a fixed earth around 
which moved the sun. You cannot weaken the force of the 
ideas on which the social order depends with impunity. 
Every society hitherto has regarded man as a volcanic force 
to be kept in subjection. To dissolve the bonds of society is 
to invite a volcanic eruption. Hence any views which 
threaten to destroy an implicit trust in the philosophic 
framework of society are not only false but highly dan- 
gerous. Even the scientist, brought up in the climate of 
another system of thought, found it almost impossible to 
believe in a new theory of the universe and probably meant 
what he said when he defended himself from heresy by 
saying that his ideas were only speculations. 

But the new was coming into existence by its own laws 
of growth and the older picture of the universe was not so 
much being argued down as dying out. The old feelings 
were becoming barren, the old actions unmeaning. New 
ideas alone seemed relevant and alive, the response to the 
old ideas flagged perceptibly. When this takes place on a 
large scale the knell of the older order is sounded. Society 
has to be made anew. 

The new philosophy came first as a demand for freer 
thinking. Then as an insistence on the need for suspending 
judgment on a question until sufficient evidence has been 
collected. Bacon borrows a simile from Dante, " Let this 
be to thee ever as lead to thy feet, to make thee move 


slowly, like, one that is weary, both to the yes and the no, 
that thou seest not." Men must call a halt in their specula- 
tions and allow themselves to be rigidly limited by brute 

But it was Descartes who laid down the philosophical 
foundations of the new science and the new society. He 
did this in three ways. Firstly by his new method of think- 
ing, secondly by the mechanistic science which it justified 
and encouraged, thirdly by the philosophical dualism of 
mind and matter, of faith and reason which this mechan- 
istic materialism itself rendered necessary. 

The new method of thought came as a protest against the 
uncritical assumptions of medievalism and the huge deduc- 
tive systems based upon them. This mass of knowledge 
seemed to the new men pretentious and unsubstantiated. 
While Bacon and the experimentalists turned from dogmas 
to experimental facts, Descartes was asking himself whether 
the instrument of reason, if honestly and thoroughly used 
would not provide a method of separating the chaff of 
baseless conjecture from the residuum of certain truth. In 
mathematics pure reason gives satisfactory and indubitable 
results. What happens if you put the mind to work in a 
completely rigorous manner firstly on spiritual and philo- 
sophical questions and secondly on material questions? 
Descartes thought that the result was the indubitable 
proof of the distinction between mind and matter, of the 
reality of the soul and the certainty of the existence of God. 
On the other hand he came to the conclusion that shapes 
and motions were all that existed in the world apart from 
souls. Motion is the only change we can clearly understand, 
and therefore all other changes and indeed the whole variety 
and complexity of the concrete world can and must be 
reduced to matter in motion. Only when you reduce 
phenomena to physical and mathematical terms do they be- 
come rational. Therefore this is the ultimate scientific truth. 

If this mechanistic materialism leaves no place for spirit 
and religion these are safeguarded because they rest on 
other but equally indubitable foundations. In the same 



way he was careful to say that his system of universal doubt 
was not intended to be applied to religion^ *whCTe - mattef s 
were believed on grounds of faith and not reason ; nor did 
he allow himself to criticize society. His aim was to show 
what was provable and what was unprovable, as far as pure 
reason was concerned, and to set free the scientific intellect 
to master the universe. 

" As soon as I had acquired some general notions 
respecting physics, and beginning to make trial of them in 
various particular difficulties, had observed how far they 
can carry us, and how much they differ from the prin- 
ciples that have been employed up to the present time, 
I believed that I could not keep them concealed without 
sinning grievously against the law by which we are 
bound to promote, as far as in us lies, the general good 
of mankind. For by them I perceived it to be possible 
to arrive at knowledge highly useful in life ; and in room 
of the speculative philosophy usually taught in the 
schools, to discover a practical, by means of which, 
knowing the force and action of fire, water, air, the stars, 
the heavens, and all the other bodies that surround us, 
as distinctly as we know the various crafts of our artisans, 
we might also apply them in the same way to all the uses 
to which they are adapted, and thus render ourselves the 
lords and possessors of nature. And this is a result to be 
desired, not only in order to the invention of an infinity 
of arts, by which we might be enabled to enjoy without 
any trouble the fruits of the earth, and all its comforts, 
but also and especially for the preservation of health, 
which is without doubt, of all the blessings of this fife, 
the first and fundamental one; for the mind is so inti- 
mately dependent upon the condition and relation of the 
organs of the body, that if any means can ever be found 
to render men wiser and more ingenious than hitherto, 
I believe that it is in medicine they must be sought 

1 Descartes., Discourse on Method, part vi. 



In this practical scientific end we see the motive of the 
new philosophy and what differentiates it from all those 
idealisms which, as we saw in the last section, make it 
their aim rather to change the minds of men to conform 
to what eternally is and must be rather than to change 
nature in the interests of man. 

But although Descartes won for men a new vision of the 
universe by persuading them to accept only perfectly clear 
ideas, making a clean sweep of all that had hitherto passed 
for knowledge, these clear ideas have proved so full of 
obscurity that philosophers have been arguing about them 
ever since. It is, perhaps, for this reason that Descartes has 
been called the father of modern philosophy ! 

The rigid separation of mind and matter chopped the 
universe in two with a hatchet and led to what is known 
as dualism, the existence side by side of two worlds, the 
physical and the mental, which are incapable of influencing 
one another. This is an untenable position and two solutions 
were offered. The first was to hold to the physical and drop 
the mental altogether. This was the solution of the French 
materialists. The second was to hold to the mental and drop 
the physical. This was Berkeley's solution and from it 
Idealism developed. The only attempt to do justice to both 
sides is to be found in Spinoza who claimed that mind and 
matter were two aspects of a higher reality. 

The French materialists represented the purely scientific 
conclusions of the new philosophy and laid the foundations 
of the successful scientific work of the following century. 
Owing to the growing tension between the bourgeoisie and 
the aristocracy we find the scientific movement taking a 
strongly anti-religious line and deliberately seeking to 
undermine the supernaturalist sanctions of privilege. Hence 
science, rationalism, and the new economic forces worked 
hand in hand. 

During the eighteenth century the capitalistic mode of 
production in Europe was being strengthened and growing. 
In France capitalism required the dissolution of feudal 
relations in the countryside and political guarantees for the 



commercial-industrial towns. The old feudal order hind- 
ered trade, giving the peasantry over to the exploitation of 
landlords and officials and thus depriving it of its power to 
buy town manufactures. The contradictions between the 
new class of bourgeoisie, together with the semi-skilled pro- 
letariat dependent upon it, and the peasantry, together 
with their masters, the ruling feudal classes — aristocrats and 
clericals — reached a state of considerable tension. The on- 
coming storm of revolution was felt already in the air. In 
the course of the decades preceding the Great French 
Revolution the bourgeoisie produced a number of philos- 
ophers and publicists who with unusual talent and force 
came forward as champions of the bourgeoisie in the realm 
of theory. In contrast to the leading thinkers of the English 
bourgeoisie who after a victorious revolution had managed 
to conclude a union ' with the feudalists and were there- 
fore inclined even in philosophy to compromises, to 
agreement with religion; in contrast also to the German 
bourgeoisie, who were feeble and cowardly and therefore 
vague and indefinite in their ideology ; the philosophers 
of the French bourgeoisie were daring thinkers and fought 
against religion and idealistic philosophy fearing neither 
authority nor God. The most logical of the French phil- 
osophers of that time in their struggle with religion 
arrived at materialistic conclusions and produced remark- 
able examples of materialistic philosophy. Their severe 
logic, their fearless thinking, their political acumen in the 
struggle . against feudalism and, in particular, against the 
Church, the talent and often artistry of their exposition, 
made these philosophers popular, not only in France, but 
also even beyond its boundaries. 

These French materialists took their stand on the achieve- 
ments of the science of their day. Science in the eighteenth 
century had attained remarkable successes. Mechanics, the 
science of moving bodies, had especially developed. New 
fields had been opened in the mathematics of that time 
(analytic geometry, the differential and integral calculus) 
and these provided an instrument for studying the movements 


of bodies in space. Great strides had been made too 
in physics, in which mathematics and mechanics provided 
the basic instruments necessary for studying the properties 
of liquids, gases, and light. Medicine, too, had its suc- 
cesses. Many physicians at this period discarded the old 
medicine, which was full of superstition and prejudices, 
and tried to explain all the processes in the human organism 
not by postulating a " soul " to control the bodily functions, 
but by relying on the sciences of mechanics and mathe- 
matics. For some time the telescope (1609) had been known 
and in use, and also the microscope (1590), which in an 
extraordinary manner widened the field of natural phen- 
omena and made them immediately accessible to the 
observer. A number of astronomical discoveries were made 
which reinforced the heliocentric point of view, which 
regarded the earth not as the centre of the universe, but 
only as one of the planets that circle round the sun. The laws 
of falling bodies were discovered, and the laws of planetary 
motion ; Newton formulated his general law of gravity. 

All these discoveries required a unity of method and a 
unity of world-outlook which might well be in opposition 
to the world-outlook of religion. The most logical mater- 
ialistic formulation of such a world-outlook at that time was 
the work of the French materialists Holbach and Helvetius. 
The fundamental proposition which united them was this, 
that nature is material, was created by no one and exists 
for ever. The view of the Church that matter is fixed, passive 
and can only move itself and change with the help of spirit 
was opposed. They asserted that matter was created by no 
one and is always in motion. No matter without movement 
and no movement without matter. They rejected any 
interference of a god with nature, since a god appeared 
quite superfluous and nature could be explained without 
him. In nature stern causal law is the ruler, one 
phenomenon of necessity follows another. 

" The universe is the vast unity of everything that is, 
everywhere it shows us only matter in movement," says 


Holbach (i 723-1 789), "This is all that there is and 
it displays only an infinite and continuous chain of 
causes and actions; some of these causes we know, 
since they immediately strike our senses; others we 
do not know since they act on us only by means of 
consequences, quite remote from first causes." 

This mechanistic world-outlook also determined the 
attitude of the French philosophers to the question of the 
origin of consciousness and the role of thought. The 
Church taught that the consciousness of man is a fragment 
of the divine spirit, of soul, that thanks to the soul man is 
able to think, and by just this is distinguished from the 
animals. But the materialists denied the self-sufficiency of 
the soul and held that man is just such a material body as 
all other animals and inorganic bodies. Man, of course, is 
distinguished from inorganic bodies, but this distinction, 
in the opinion of the French materialists, amounts to this, 
that man is merely a more complex and delicate mechanism 
than other bodies. Thus La Mettrie (1709— 175 1) even 
called his principal work : Man the Machine. He wrote : 

" All the functions, which I have ascribed to this 
machine, naturally proceed from the organisation of its 
several parts no more and no less than the movements of 
a clock or other automaton proceed from the disposition 
of its screws and wheels, so that it is quite unnecessary to 
suppose in this machine, i.e. "man, any kind of soul, any 
special cause of movement and life, other than its blood 
and the forces within it that are stimulated by warmth." 

Diderot, who enters into a deeper examination of the 
reactions of soul and body, expresses the same thought as 
La Mettrie. 

" We are instruments dowered with feeling and 
memory. Do you really think that a chaffinch or a 
nightingale and a human musician are essentially 
different ? Do you see this egg ? What sort is this egg ? 



Before it was fertilized it was an insensible, non-living 
mass. How does this mass change into another organiza- 
tion, with sensation and life ? By means of heat. What 
does this heat produce ? Motion. What is the gradual 
action of this motion ? At first there is a moving point, a 
little thread, which dilates and knits itself together, then 
flesh is formed, a beak, wings, eyes, claws appear; the 
yellowish matter separates itself and produces the in- 
ward parts of the bird— it is an animal. The animal moves 
this way and that, cheeps ! I hear its cry through the 
shell. It covers itself with down, it sees. The weight 
of its swaying head ceaselessly knocks its beak against 
the wall of its prison, now the wall breaks, the bird 
crawls out to freedom, walks, flutters, falls down, runs, 
approaches nearer, has regrets, suffers, loves, yearns, 
and rejoices ; it has all your feelings, all your actions. 
Between you and the animals the difference is only in 

However, although they rejected soul as the source of 
consciousness and acknowledged that man is only a material 
body, a machine, yet all the same the French materialists 
had to explain the origin of our consciousness. This question 
interested them, and the answer they gave was materialistic, 
but at the same time, mechanistic. For all the philosophers 
of the eighteenth century, as also for their predecessors, 
human consciousness did not develop but was given together 
with man and all that was needed was to define the un- 
alterable mechanism by means of which thoughts arose and 
were united into chains of reasoning. Materialists and 
idealists wrangled and fought among themselves over the 
question whether thought is a product of matter or matter 
is the offspring of spirit and proceeds from it. But the idea 
that consciousness is a process, that it develops, that it does 
not amount to a mechanical union of diverse thoughts and 
feelings, was known by neither side. 

The French materialists saw the origin of knowledge in 
the action of nature on our senses. Until nature acts on us 



we have no sensations and no consciousness. We are born, 
said the French materialists, repeating the pronouncement 
of the English philosopher Locke, with a mind that is like 
a clean slate. Consciousness arises in a man in the process 
of living, as a result of the impressions received by his 
organs of sense. The more impressions his sense organs 
receive, the more rich, the more diverse his consciousness 

Sensations are those simplest elements of consciousness 
out of whose union and combination representations are 
formed. In the further working out of representations, 
complex ideas, ideas of relations and finally general ideas 
are formed. We see, therefore, that in their enquiries into 
the origin and nature of consciousness the French material- 
ists retained their mechanistic ideas. 

The essence of human conduct in the opinion of the 
French materialists is comprised in this, that it seeks for 
satisfaction and avoids unsatisfaction. Happiness, therefore, 
consists of prolonged and durable pleasure. Thus every 
man is an egoist. The aggregate of egoists constitutes 

In society, the egoism of one man is limited by the egoism 
of other people. Consequently, in society, man must strive 
not only for his own happiness, but also for the happiness of 
others. To attain general happiness, good social institutions 
are necessary. 

Therefore, in order that people may acquire happiness it 
is necessary to replace bad institutions by good ones. Here 
the philosophy of the French materialists outgrows its 
moral teaching and becomes a political programme, a 
demand to change the feudal structure of society. This 
demand was that element in their philosophy which 
particularly attracted the attention of the bourgeoisie and 
inspired all the progressive people of that epoch. In their 
social views the French materialists appeared as bold 
fighters against feudal relations both in town and country. 
They showed special hatred to the Church as the bulwark 
of feudalism. Their teaching became a theory of revolution. 



The French bourgeois sought to realize their ideas in 

Yet personally the French materialists were not revolu- 
tionaries. They did not teach a revolutionary, violent 
overthrow of authority. They made no call to insurrection. 
To the question how to change social institutions they 
answered: It is necessary to change the morals and habits of 
people, to assist the enlightenment of the masses, since the 
political structure depends on this. But to the question how 
to change the environment, they had no helpful answer, 
which reveals the inadequacy and shallowness of their 
thinking and its speculative character. They rested their 
hopes of changing feudalism not on the masses but on 
enlightened, absolute monarchs from whom they expected 
reforms. The helplessness of metaphysical materialism to 
resolve problems of social development was in this fashion 
made absolutely plain. It was this which led to the belief 
that an enlightened law-giver was necessary in order to 
change the social structure. As if a king in relation to social 
institutions acts like a mechanic in relation to a machine 
the separate parts of which one can rearrange by external 

The immense encouragement which this philosophy gave 
both to the growth of science and the growth of religious 
rationalism must not blind us to its grave defects. It failed 
signally to explain how any real change can come about. 
If all the variety of life is to be reduced to the mathematical 
arrangements and rearrangements of atoms, all actual 
differences are really denied. This is what Plekhanov 
called " the transformation of a phenomenon into a fossil- 
ized thing by abstracting it from all the inner processes of 

The only way to explain phenomena is to study things in 
their development, in their arising and dying away, letting 
the object freely and spontaneously expound its own 

But French materialism was incapable of this dialectical 
treatment of nature. 




Rationalistic materialism reduces the universe, to mathe- 
matics, but does so by assuming that certain ideas are 
fundamental and self-evident. The English philosopher 
Locke thought that the rationalists assumed too much 
and endeavoured to show that we have no innate ideas in 
virtue of which we possess knowledge apart from experience. 
He held that the only way in which to cut entirely free from 
error and dogmatism is to confine ourselves rigidly to 
experience. He found that most discussions ended in 
futility because people would insist on raising problems 
beyond the limits of possible human knowledge. It then 
occurred to him 

" that before we set ourselves upon enquiries of that 
nature, it was necessary to examine our own abilities, 
and see what objects our understandings were or were 
not fitted to deal with. For by extending their enquiries 
beyond their capacities people raise questions and multi- 
ply disputes, which only increase their doubts." 

Locke then proceeded to argue that there was nothing in 
the mind that was not first in the senses ; that out of sense 
rhaterial the mind puts together more general ideas. 
Sensations are copies of the fundamental characteristics of 
the external world, extension, shape, solidity, number, 
motion. What we call sensations of colour, smell, sound, 
and taste are really subjective effects produced in us by the 
more fundamental qualities of the real world. 

• Locke is thus a materialist because he believes that the 
entire content of consciousness is derived by impression 
from the material world. But he is also a dualist because 
these experiences are mental, whereas the world from which 
they are derived is material. 

This dualism led straight to Idealism, that is to say to 
the acceptance of the spiritual half of Descartes' divided 


world. This was the second alternative to which dualism 
must ultimately come, just as materialism was the first. 

Berkeley simply showed that if colour does not reside in 
the coloured object but is the effect in the mind of the 
physical properties of an object, if warmth is not a property 
of the fire but is the end effect of the nerves which are 
agitated by the molecular disturbance known as heat, if 
tickling is not a property of the feather that tickles but of 
the mind of the person tickled, then it is possible to push the 
whole argument back one stage farther and show that even 
sensations of extension and solidity are only sensations and 
that we can never get beyond contemplating our own 
mental states. If we want to base all knowledge on experi- 
ence, experience is at bottom purely mental, and when we 
believe that it tells us of an external world of which sensa- 
tions are a copy that is merely an inference. Things cannot 
exist apart from our consciousness of them, and to ask 
whether they continue to exist if we no longer have sensa- 
tions is absurd. Things are sensations. 

Hume carried this scepticism one stage farther. We think 
that at any rate we have a self that is formed of a chain of 
successive experiences presumably grounded in the identity 
and unity of the personal soul. Hume declared that just as 
Berkeley had shown that there was no material substance 
in which qualities resided, but only pure qualities, which 
are pure sensations, so he could show that there was no 
spiritual substance which had experiences, but only pure 
experiences one after the other. 

Berkeley of course did not for a moment mean to say that 
the objective world did not exist and that we were shut up 
to our own sensations. He was simply arguing that you 
cannot prove that such sensations are the sensations of a 
material world. Nevertheless they are perfectly objective, 
we cannot help them and we cannot vary them at will, they 
constitute a rigid, objective world of sensed objects existing 
independent of our will. Sensed objects but not material 

Berkeley had his own theological answer to the problem 



which this raises. The objectivity and permanence of the 
cause of our sensations must, he argues, be due to the 
continuous activity of an eternal creative Mind, God. It is 
God's power which causes our sensations to be arranged in 
the particular order which they follow one another. The 
external world, therefore, continues to exist even when we 
cease to perceive it, because God's perception sustains it. 

We see then where the argument from experience leads. 
And the sensationalism from which it springs is itself derived 
from Descartes' dualism of mind and matter, which treated 
matter as in itself merely mechanical. 

But if matter had been conceived as developing, as active, 
and mind as the coming to consciousness of matter, we 
should find ourselves with neither a dead materialism nor 
a groundless subjectivism but a living unity of mind and 

Spinoza was the first to work out such a system. Rejecting 
dualism he held that the universe was one system, which 
was neither pure spirit nor pure matter. Mind and matter 
are the two ultimate attributes of substance, that is to say 
substance itself is not dead matter or pure spirit but has 
body and has mind. But actual bodies or objects are par- 
ticular forms of matter, just as actual minds are particular 
forms of thought. In a human being we have a double mani- 
festation (body and mind) of the two ultimate attributes 
which make up fundamental Reality. 

Spinoza also held that all things constitute a perfect system. 
Every finite object or event is dependent on innumerable 
others which ramify in all directions and are each of them 
similarly dependent on innumerable others. Everything is 
necessary in its appointed place within the whole. Nothing 
is possible save the actual, and nothing is actual save the 
necessary. " From the infinite nature of God all things 
follow by the same necessity, and in the same way, as it 
follows from the nature of a triangle from eternity to eternity 
that its three angles are equal to two right angles." 

The mechanism which Descartes saw in matter alone, 
Spinoza sees in God and mind as well. But the entire 



Universe is a live, and not a dead mechanism, for the order 
of things is the order of perfect goodness and wisdom and is 
continuously sustained by the intense consciousness of God. 
Yet, once again, God is not above the Universe or within 
the 'Universe, but his mind " is all the mentality that is 
scattered over space and time, the diffused consciousness 
that animates the world." 

This is pure mysticism in its sublime confidence m 
already existing perfection. But in the conception of the 
Universe as one system, which is wholly material from end 
to end, and in which whatever mind we find is not ex- 
traneous to matter but an attribute of substance, parallel 
with and interpenetrating matter, we have the conception 
that inspired Hegel and after him Marx. But for Spinoza it 
is an unchanging, undeveloping whole. 


Kant's great contribution to philosophy lay in the 
combination he effected between reason and experimental 

Hume had not only dissolved the soul into a succession of 
experiences; using the same argument he overthrew the 
whole conception of law on which both Descartes and 
Spinoza had built up their rational universes. Hume argued 
that we can never prove cause and effect, we merely infer it 
from the frequent occurrence of two successive phenomena. 
It is merely mental habit that makes us think that if the first 
phenomenon occurs the second is bound to follow. A law is 
simply a convenient formula summing up what usually 
happens. We have no guarantee that the sequences hitherto 
observed will reappear in future experience. 

Now materialism had attacked religion in the name of 
science and philosophy. Then Berkeley had refuted mater- 
ialism with its own arguments about matter and sense 
impressions, but now Berkeley's doctrine of experience in 
the hands of Hume has overthrown the doctrine of the 



soul, the necessity for God, the rationality of the universe 
and the very existence of science itself. 

Someone was badly needed to rescue religion more 
effectively than Berkeley and also to rescue science. 
This Kant did by pointing out that Locke was wrong in 
imagining that a series of impressions falling on the brain 
could build themselves up into a systematic picture of the 
universe. They could not do this but for the inherited 
structure of the mind. All knowledge needs two factors, 
sense data and pre-existing mental forms in which to fit 
them. These mental forms make up the empty framework 
of a perfectly rational universe. We cannot apprehend 
anything at all without using this already functioning notion 
of a rational world in which cause and effect links all pheno- 
mena. Hence all the facts we absorb simply fill out this picture 
and cannot be to us other than orderly facts. In practice 
therefore we never get the scheme of a scientific world with- 
out multitudes of facts to prove it, but all those facts have 
only entered the mind through the gateways of the logical 
forms so that they could never be to us other than logical. 

This ingenious justification of science leads straight to 
those modern scientific conceptions which explain scien- 
tific theories as symbols, convenient fictions or arbitrary 
forms. It is really the profoundest scepticism. Things as 
they really are can never be known. Our subjectivism is 
double, not only are our experiences subjective but the 
forms which order them and build them up into our ex- 
perience of an objective world are subjective too. 

Now the mental machine which produces for us a scien- 
tific world cannot by its very nature give us anything else. 
It is therefore useless to ask it to prove the existence of God 
or speak to us of goodness and beauty. But the mental 
machine is only a part of the mind. It has other faculties 
equally valid and important. We are not always thinking 
scientifically. The practical 1 reason, as opposed to the 

1 By " practical reason " Kant does not mean scientific reasoning but 
the very opposite, reasoning which, takes life in all its concrete richness, 
including moral and religious considerations. 


scientific reason, gives us our power to apprehend God and 

In our day Bergson has given us his own version of Kant. 
Reason is a tool for doing things with the world. Intuition is 
a direct apprehension of the entirely irrational world as it 
is in itself. The scientist investigates part of the world and 
investigates it for a special purpose. He assumes that part of 
the world to be a machine. He therefore further assumes 
that the whole universe is an aggregation of machine-like 
bits and makes up one big machine. But the scientific ab- 
straction kills what it dissects out, freezes what it immo- 
bilizes, and is wholly false to life as a living, moving whole. 
Life itself is apprehended not by reason or science but by 
intuition. Thus Bergson grows out of Kant and at the same 
time helps to explain his great forerunner. 

Lenin described the philosophy of Kant as 

" a reconciliation of materialism with idealism, a com- 
promise between the two, a combination in one system of 
heterogeneous, opposed philosophical tendencies. When 
Kant allows that to our representations there corresponds 
something outside us, something in itself, he is a mater- 
ialist. When he declares this ' thing in itself to be 
unknowable, transcendental, of another world, he is an 

What is valuable in Kant's theory is his demonstration 
that there is no nature for us that is not made over by social 
man. That man does not stand over against nature contem- 
plating it as an unpeopled universe, but is himself an active 
part of the nature he is observing. Mind is active and 
science is not a photograph of the physical universe but the 
product of man's activity upon nature and nature's corre- 
sponding reaction upon man. There is no " nature in itself" 
but only " nature for man." 

But why should that mean that human science is a fiction 
or other than a genuine reflection of an objective world ? 
The most that it can mean is that it is partial and incom- 
plete, which may be readily admitted. But it is true as far 



as it goes and it is always going farther. From this point of 
view there is not the slightest need to make a mystery of 
man's apprehension of the non-physical side of nature as 
though this required another type of reason. It is the same 
reason but concerned with other and sometimes wider 
aspects. In fact apart from these wider social ideas and plans 
the narrower tasks of science would never be attempted, for 
it is civilization as a whole that gives the scientist and the 
specialist their jobs. 

Out of Kant's idealism grew the systems of Fichte, 
Schelling and Hegel, all of which criticized him while 
building upon him. By far the most important was Hegel's. 
Hegel, like Spinoza, believed that the world was one 
rational system and that everything was interconnected. In 
order to understand anything it must be seen in all its rela- 
tions. Now this is the basis of Hegel's distinction between 
appearance and reality. Kant's distinction was between 
scientific appearance, the world as known to reason, and the 
reality of things in themselves, the world not known to 
anybody. Hegel's distinction is between appearances which 
are partial and incomplete, like Bergson's view of science, 
and reality which is all-embracing and complete, like 
Bergson's whole world as apprehended by intuition. 

Now most of experience is obviously partial. It will there- 
fore show manifest signs of incompleteness if carefully 
examined. It will be seen to imply other things on its 
fringe or on which it depends just as one small portion of a 
picture really implies the whole composition. Now if reason 
gets to work on any portion of experience and seeks to find 
out all that is implied in that experience, including the 
contrary truths which the very existence of so many truths 
imply, reason will be driven onward to include more and 
more in its embrace, ever seeking to clear up seeming 
contradictions until at last it includes all the facts and the 
whole truth and there are no more contradictions and 
partialities. This final truth will be the whole truth about 


Now this mental process of passing from the part to the 
whole, from the self-contradictory to the self-consistent is 
the dialectic. Is it, we now have to ask, a purely mental 
activity, which a sufficiently powerful mind could engage 
in with nothing to start with but a chip of concrete reality 
and at last come to know everything ? Or is it a real 
historical unfolding of all the implications of a universe in 
embryo, like a chick growing from an egg ? 

The first alternative suggests a palaeontologist reconstruct- 
ing a prehistoric monster from a single bone, or a detective 
reconstructing a crime from a single clue. The second 
suggests the evolutionary process as the working out of the 
potentialities of the universe. 

Hegel himself seems to have meant both. But by the 
expanding, unfolding universe he meant, among other 
things, the development of Absolute Spirit itself. It was here 
that Hegel was a pure idealist. But in so far as he never 
splits the world in two, never thinks for a moment of mere 
mind, as Berkeley did, never considers spirit as opposed to 
matter, as Descartes did, but, like Spinoza, holds firmly to 
substance as containing within it both mind and matter and 
constituting one Universe, Hegel is always thinking of the 
concrete working out of the pageant of history, of bio- 
logical evolution, of political and legal institutions. He is a 
realist all the time. But because he is an idealist too he sees 
all these solid, concrete things as manifestations of the 
unfolding of objective spirit, whose moments are not only 
individual consciousnesses but also all the creations of 
human thought, all forms of society, all aspects of the State, 
in a word, all that exists. 

Heraclitus had spoken of the continuous transition of 
phenomena from non-existence to existence and vice versa. 
There is a perpetual flux from one form to another, from 
the unity of opposites into their division and from the 
division back to unity. This inspired guess Hegel turned 
into the basic principle of a new logic worked out by himseF, 
and on this base he constructed a whole system of philos- 
ophy to show how " absolute spirit," objective consciousness, 



is developed from "nothing," a pure abstraction, into 
an absolute idea which grasps all and contains all in itself. 
There is no doubt that the absolute spirit of Hegel is that 
same God, that same divine reason which as it were realizes 
itself in human history in the productions of philosophy, 
art, law and in social institutions. Hegel, however, made 
God descend from his immutable perfection and proceed 
along the path of development, contending with himself 
and enriching himself with new content. But how, according 
to Hegel, does absolute spirit make its dialectical way, how 
does this dialectical process of development take place ? 
Hegel sees the essence of development in the unity and 
strife of opposites, in the fact that every phenomenon con- 
tains an internal contradiction that drives it forward and 
brings it ultimately to destruction and the transition to 
something else. However, the destruction of one phe- 
nomenon is at the same time the emergence of a new one 
which denies the last phenomenon but also contains it in 
itself. Hegel demonstrates this idea by citing the history of 
philosophy, of art, and the material of human history. One 
philosophic system changes itself to another. Every philos- 
opher down to Hegel held his system to be absolute truth 
and all previous systems to be delusions, but Hegel showed 
that such a view is naive, that every philosophic system is 
■a step in the development of absolute spirit. Absolute 
spirit in every historical epoch knows itself in the form of 
a definite philosophy that corresponds to the historical 
content of the given stage of its development. In another 
epoch this form appears as antiquated and yields place to 
its successor, which denies it and at the same time contains 
in itself the positive content of the superseded philosophy. 
" The philosophy, latest in time, is the result of all preceding 
philosophies and therefore must include them all in itself." 
The same holds true of religion, law, art, and social institu- 
tions. All these fields of absolute spirit were studied by 
Hegel as connected with one another, and were found to be 
in close mutual relations. Hegel taught that " only in the 
presence of a given form of religion can a given form of State 



structure exist, onlyin the presenceof a given State structure 
can a given philosophy and a given art exist." 

But Hegel was seeking the fundamental cause of the 
historic process, the principle which determines the dia- 
lectic of development of nature and society, seeking it in 
the development of contradictions within absolute spirit, 
which finds in nature and society its own form of disclosure 
and development, whereas Marx saw this basic cause in the 
very real contradictions of the material processes both in 
nature and society. 

When Napoleon tried by means of the bayonets of his 
army to introduce bourgeois relationships into Germany, 
Hegel, who at that time was creating his dialectical method, 
was in sympathy with the French Revolution and greeted 
the entry of the Napoleonic troops into Jena as the historical 
incarnation of a new form of absolute spirit. They say he 
then called Napoleon " the "absolute spirit on a white 
charger." But twenty years later, when the feudal monarchy 
of Frederick William III was being consolidated in Ger- 
many, Hegel had lost his revolutionary ideas and had be- 
come the State philosopher of the Prussian monarchy. 

The dialectical method had made it possible for Hegel in 
his youth to generalize in idealistic form all the scientific 
experience of his time, all the course of the historic process, 
and from idealistic, perverted positions to criticize the one- 
sided, mechanistic methods which the science of his day was 
using. Hegel harshly criticized the completely formal logic 
that ruled up to his time, disclosed its internal contradiction 
and showed the. impossibility of understanding dialectical 
processes on its basis. Hegel first formulated in idealistic 
form universal laws for the development, the transition of 
certain phenomena into other phenomena. These phe- 
nomena proceed, according to Hegel, by means of " a nega- 
tion of a negation." Marx in The Poverty of Philosophy 
expounds this theory of Hegel as follows : 

" But once it has placed itself in thesis, this thought, 
opposed to itself, doubles itself into two contradictory 



thoughts, the positive and the negative, the ' yes ' and the 
' no.' The struggle of these two antagonistic elements, 
comprised in the antithesis, constitutes the dialectic 
movement. The yes becoming no, the no becoming yes, 
the yes becoming at once yes and no, the no becoming at 
once no and yes, the contraries balance themselves, 
neutralize themselves, paralyse themselves. The fusion 
of these two contradictory thoughts constitutes a new 
thought which is the synthesis of the two. This new 
thought unfolds itself again in two contradictory thoughts 
which are confounded in their turn in a new synthesis. 
From this travail is born a group of thoughts. This group 
of thoughts follows the same dialectic movement as a 
simple category, and has for antithesis a contradictory 
group. From these two groups is born a new group of 
thoughts which is the synthesis of them. As from the 
dialectic movement of simple categories is born the 
group, so from the dialectic movement of the groups is 
born the series, and from the dialectic movement of the 
series is born the whole system." 1 

^Thanks to such a development of absolute spirit by means 
of its internal contradictions, no one stage of ft is fortuitous, 
but each flows out of all the preceding history that it con- 
tains in itself. " Everything that is real," said Hegel, " is 
rational, and everything that is rational is real." By this 
Hegel meant to say that all existing social institutions and 
forms of ideology are determined by the development of 
absolute spirit, are steps in the movement of reason. Here 
Hegel is formulating his idealistic principle of dialectic; 
the development of reason is also the development of reality! 
This proposition has served as the ground for charging 
Hegel with reactionary tendencies, with justifying every 
infamy, every social tyranny, since for him everything that 
exists is rational. Hegel in the last years of his life was indeed 
inclined thus to interpret this dialectical proposition of his, 
it was also used thus by an official philosophy mainly 
1 Marx, The Poverty of Philosophy, p. 1 1 7. 



concerned with self-preservation. Hegel's philosophy at one 
time became the official philosophy of the Prussian mon- 
archy. We know that this idea in Russia too was the cause 
of much agony of thought in such people as Belinsky, who 
could not persuade themselves that the regime of Nicholas 
was rational merely because it existed ! But Hegel's dialec- 
tical method offered foundations for quite different social 
conclusions. Because, granted that that which is rational is 
real, then if the real should prove to be irrational and cease 
to correspond with its idea, it means, according to Hegel, 
that it has become antiquated, doomed and subject to 
destruction. The monarchy was irrational, therefore it was 
unreal. The monarchy exists, but the moment it becomes 
irrational it has already ceased to have its roots in life, in 
reality, it no longer corresponds to the new stage in the 
development of society and therefore must perish. Thus the 
Left-Hegelians were able to interpret this proposition of 
Hegel so as to aid them in the struggle with the monarchical 
order and religion. They were able to show that Chris- 
tianity and religion are irrational and therefore must 
perish, and so it is necessary to contend with them. Thus 
the Russian Hegelians argued also, fighting against 
Tsarism. They proved the irrationality, backwardness, and 
savagery of the Tsarist regime and hence the necessity for 
its overthrow, and they sounded the call to fight against it. 

The main contradiction of Hegel's philosophy is reflected 
in the fact that the proposition we have quoted can be 
interpreted in two opposite ways at once. 

In Hegel's philosophy we find an expression of the 
ambiguity of the ideology of the bourgeoisie of that time — 
the progressive and the reactionary sides of it. On one side 
it is characterized by a desire to destroy everything that 
is antiquated, irrational and doomed to pass away, and to 
replace it with the new that has grown within the womb 
of the old ; on the other side it is characterized by a dread 
of the new, a dread that was strengthened by what they 
saw of the French Revolution, and by the conviction that 
the status quo in Germany must remain, that it was not 


subject to change. But Hegelianism cannot logically defend 
the status quo. Dialectic is revolutionary, it sees in every- 
thing processes of change, phenomena in constant flux; 
every assertion of absolute rest, eternity and immutability 
contradicts it. 

In the further development of the class struggle within 
capitalist society, both the Hegelian idealism and the 
Hegelian dialectic were used as theoretic weapons. The 
radical bourgeoisie of Germany tried to use Hegel's philos- 
ophy as a theory of bourgeois revolution. However, 
experience soon showed that the philosophy of Hegel, as 
such, either grows quickly into a reactionary ideology of 
the conservative elements of the bourgeoisie and takes on 
the character of a rationalistic religion, or it is used by the 
revolutionary groups of society. 

. As long as Hegel was alive these opposing camps devel- 
oped the two contradictory sides of his philosophy and yet 
carried on their struggle within the Hegelian system as a 
whole. But, as we know, in the years 1830-31, a wave of 
revolutions rolled over Europe, affecting a number of 
countries from Spain to Poland. In Germany philosophical 
disputes under the influence of this revolution took on an 
openly political character. The matter reached the point 
at which groups of " right " Hegelians, of the " centre " 
and of the " left" were formed within the Hegelian school, 
the last mentioned eventually breaking off as an inde- 
pendent group. The revolutionary wave, however, very 
soon subsided, and the revolutionary strivings of the liberal 
bourgeoisie in Germany did not lead to any real political 
achievements. They found their outlet only in philosophic 
disputations. But for this very reason the philosophical 
struggle grew, in importance and intensity, especially in the 
sphere of theology where the new philosophy engaged in 
radical criticisms of the dogmas of the Church. 

Marx and Engels took a direct part in this movement of 
the young Hegelians. Marx, however, soon ceased to be 
satisfied merely with the philosophic criticism of religion, 
and began to play an active part in the political: struggle 


as editor of the Rhenish Gazette. In 1842 he even broke with 
the " free men," as the young Hegelians in Berlin called 
themselves. Marx wanted a serious struggle and not empty- 
declamation, although this bore a revolutionary character. 

" I required," wrote Marx, " that there should be less 
noisy phrases and self-flagellation and more defmiteness, 
more knowledge of the matter and penetration into its 
concrete essence. Further, I expressed the wish that when 
they criticized religion they should push forward as the 
first thing to be done to a criticism of political conditions, 
and not merely criticize the political conditions in their 
religious" setting, because the former approach is more 
in accordance with the spirit of the paper and the level 
of its readers : religion, in itself lacking content, dwells, 
not in the sky, but on earth and itself collapses along with 
the dissolution of the distorted actuality, whose theory 
it presents." 

Feuerbach, who studied under Hegel, was the most 
significant of his liberal disciples. This " left " wing began 
by criticizing orthodox religion from an Hegelian point of 
view, contending that the new philosophy far from but- 
tressing orthodoxy reduced dogmas to myths and led to a 
naturalistic pantheism. Feuerbach went even farther, and 
showed- that religion was nothing more than the imagi- 
native projection of human needs and hopes. Man, in so 
far as he is rational, is to himself his own object of thought. 
Whenever man is thinking of God, or infinity, or law, or 
love, he is not really thinking of the Eternal at all, but of 
outward projections of his own nature. Feuerbach recalled 
philosophy from unsubstantial metaphysics to the solid 
facts of human nature and natural science. " Speculative 
philosophy," says Feuerbach, " is drunken philosophy; 
philosophy must again become sober. Do not strive to be 
a philosopher as distinct from a man; just be a thinking 

What is Feuerbach getting at ? He is criticizing Hegel 
for falsely solving the contradiction between being and 


thought by transferring it into the interior of one of the 
primary elements, namely thought. According to Hegel 
thought is also being, nature is postulated by the idea, 
material being is created by spiritual being, by God. Kant 
was only saying the same thing when he affirmed that the 
outer world receives its laws from reason, instead of reason 
receiving its laws from the outer world. In what is this really 
different from the conception that the divine reason 
dictates to the world the laws which regulate it ? • 

But this means that Idealism is not really establishing 
the unity of being and thought at all. It is rupturing that 
unity for it is leaving real being entirely out of the question. 
The truth is that thought is conditioned by being, not 
being by thought. It is matter that thinks, it is the body 
that becomes the subject, the real material being is the 
subject, and thought is its function, its predicate. 

This is the real solution of the problem of thought and 
existence, of mind and body, the only solution which does 
not suppress one of the elements of the contradiction. 

This is very like the philosophy of Spinoza. It asserts that 
the purely subjective spiritual act of thought is objectively 
the material action of a physical body. What is this but 
Spinozism without its theological lumber ? The unity of 
thought and extension in one substance minus the un- 
necessary equation of that substance with the concept God ? 

Feuerbach's weakness was pointed out by Marx. His 
materialism only contemplates the material world- The 
mind is only acted upon by the world it thus comes to 
know. Knowing is the mind's real activity— yes, but that 
is only half the truth. We know the world only by acting 
upon it, and when we act upon it and change it, we change 
our own nature too and our knowing mind with it. 


I. Fictionalism in Modern Science 

Of recent years we have witnessed a strange revival of 
subjectivism in certain novel theories of the true nature of 




science. Avenarius in 1888 and Mach about the same time 
came forward with a methodological positivism which, 
while rejecting much in Kant, nevertheless admitted a 
subjective or voluntary factor in knowledge. 

Mach identified the physical object with its sensible 
appearances. Science, therefore, deals only with the last 
events in a chain of supposed material causes and effects 
which events are merely experiences. Man groups these 
" experiences " in scientific systems mainly as a matter 
of expediency. A thing is a construct of a selection of 
impressions, the mind or ego perceiving the thing is also 
a construct of the same impressions plus others of a different 
order. These primary experiences we describe in their 
modes of occurrence by a system of reference designed 
solely for purposes of economy. We may speak of" space," 
" force," " mass," " cause," but these are only short 
expressions for regularities of behaviour among successive 
or simultaneous impressions. Science, therefore, is not really 
explaining anything, still less is it describing an objective 
scientific world. It merely describes observed relationships 
among impressions. 

Le Roy and Poincare gave even greater emphasis to the 
subjective element in scientific thought. We apply to an 
unorganized and amorphous nature a purely conventional 
system which works with some measure of success. Nature 
is more easily ordered by one such system than by another, 
but that is as much as we dare say, the system cannot for 
a moment be held to be a true description of nature. 

Le Roy argued that one of the reasons why the facts 
seem to fit the theory is simply that we only collect such 
facts as are relevant to that theory, they are therefore 
bound to fit. The theory is true to the extent that there are 
enough facts to make it credible, but another theory might 
be equally true, and be able to amass its own verifactory 
data too. 

In more recent times Eddington has argued that the 
system of pointer readings, which really constitute science, 
is not a picture of reality but only a symbol. The pointer 


reading is no more truly representative of reality than a 
telephone number is like the subscriber who is so designated. 
Science in abstracting only the measurements of things, 
has really let the things themselves, in their richness and 
complexity, go. Hence to apprehend reality in its fullness 
some other logic than that of science is required, call it the 
sense of values, religious intuition, what you will. 

These subjectivist attacks on the validity of science were 
severely criticized by Lenin in his Materialism and Empirio- 
Criticism, where he pointed out that the whole system of 
error is due to the old, discredited subjective idealism of 
Berkeley and the confusion between experiencing an 
objective world, and merely having experiences. This new 
scientific theory about scientific theories is only idealism 
once again, only Kant in a fresh guise, only a re-hash of 
subjectivism. If matter cannot think, then thought must 
indeed have an existence in a world of its own in spite of 
all difficulties. But the only result of such a dualism will 
be the endless confusions of philosophy. But if matter can 
think, in the brains of men, then there is no need to go 
skating on the thin and dangerous ice of subjectivism. 
Science becomes the imperfect but largely satisfactory 
picture of man's universe which is validated by his success- 
ful practice in controlling nature, and which he has dis- 
covered in the process of handling nature and thinking 
about it. 

Thus nature is not a final order of the world of experience 
which must be accepted as given. It is still an unfinished 
business. It is neither the terrifying tiling the primitive 
mind envisaged or the lifelessly rigorous affair that ration- 
alists have depicted. Nature is never permanent. Man 
himself takes a hand in the creative process, and suffuses 
purely physical and biological events with the aims and 
desires implied in mind. 

" Nature is involved in life, and fife is, of course, 
involved in nature. Life seems to be an expression not 
of some fixed mood of nature, but of its evolving processes, 



and not of processes that are fixed for ever in a single 
groove, but of processes that interminably weave and 
interweave, yielding moments for the interference of 
intelligence ; so that, if we learn how, we may help, age 
after age, to select processes artistically intelligent enough 
to produce an ever finer human living, and a nature as 
well that will accept and foster that finer human living." 1 

2. State Absolutism 

Hegelian Idealism takes a characteristically modern 
form in the philosophy of the hierarchical totalitarian state 
which is really only the absolutism of Bosanquet and 
Bradley worked out to its logical conclusion. 

According to this theory the State is the living organism 
in which alone the individual finds his true self-hood and 
true freedom. It is the actualization of freedom, because 
in its institutions, its law and its actual creation of func- 
tional individuals, like bees in a hive, it provides firstly the 
concrete opportunity and secondly the men to take advant- 
age of it. The State as such stands for an entity over and 
above the sum of individual wills, and a lawful will to 
which every individual must submit. In sharing in the 
common life the individual, therefore, not only fulfils him- 
self but transcends himself. 

" Representing as it does that aspect of the individual's 
will which harmonizes with the will of others, his will, 
that is to say, for the good of all, including self, as 
opposed to his will for the good of self at the expense of 
all, it is of necessity always rational and always right." 2 

This is that confusion of the actual with the possible so 
characteristic of idealism. Here it means that absolute 
idealism sanctifies all existing institutions including the 
class relationships of modern capitalism. Hegelian idealism' 
in the hands of the English idealists has been turned into 
an ideological weapon. 

1 Hart, Inside Experience, p. 115. 

2 Joad, Modern Political Theory. 


The truth of the matter is that the organized community 
exists only to serve the interests of the individuals who 
comprise it. The individual does not exist merely to serve 
the interests of the community. Where the latter theory is 
held it merely disguises the exploitation of the many in the 
interests of the few. The " State " or " Community " that 
is served being nothing more or less than the minority that 
wields the State machine, the owning class. 

The idealist method of attributing a higher will to the 
individual which is nothing to do with what he desires, 
but which enables him to transcend his merely individual 
self is simply a device for giving an appearance of justice 
and democracy to what must otherwise appear the purely 
arbitrary and tyrannical acts of a class state. 





Dialectigally evolving matter is the initial point in 
the Marx-Leninist philosophy. In the dialectic of the 
development of material actuality the very emergence of 
social history, the very emergence of thinking individuals 
find their explanation. 

Thought is a property of highly-organized matter which 
has reached the highest stage of its development. In the 
eternal development of matter there arise, decline and anew 
create themselves, infinitely varied forms of material move- 
ment and among them there arises, in some maybe unim- 
portant part of the world-structure, a peculiar form of 
material movement, namely organic life, and after it social 

The capacity for knowledge proper to men in the social 
historic epoch is the highest product of the development 
of matter, and is the property of a high form of existence 
of material actuality. 

" Matter," says Engels, " moves in an eternal cycle, 
completing its trajectory in a period so vast that in com- 
parison with it our earthly year is as nothing ; in a cycle 
in which the period of highest development, namely the 
period of organic life with its crowning achievement — 
self-consciousness, is a space just as comparatively minute 
in the history of life and of self-consciousness ; in a cycle 


in which every particular form of the existence of matter 
— be it the sun or a nebula, a particular animal or 
animal-species, a chemical combination or decomposi- 
tion — is equally in transition ; in a cycle in which nothing' 
is eternal, except eternally changing, eternally moving 
matter and the laws of its movement and change. But 
however often and pitilessly this cycle may be accom- 
plished in time and space, however many countless suns 
and earths may arise and fall, however long it may be 
necessary to wait until in some solar system, on some 
planet appear conditions suitable for organic life, however 
many countless beings may fall and rise before, out of 
their midst, develop animals with a thinking brain that 
find an environment that permits them to live, be it 
even only for a short period, we are, nevertheless, 
assured that matter in all its changes remains eternally 
one and the same, that not one of its attributes may 
perish, and that that same iron necessity which compels 
the destruction of the highest earthly bloom of matter — 
the thinking spirit — also necessitates its re-birth at some 
other place, at some other time." 1 

At what moment does this process of knowledge arise ? 
At what degree of development of material actuality are 
the conditions created which are necessary for the emerg- 
ence of knowing beings ? 

The process of knowledge, which is a process of reflecting 
the ever deeper connections of the material world, can 
arise only when the conditions are ripe for the development 
of real social history ; when socially controlled production 
becomes possible, when organic life is no longer subject 
to the merely unconscious operations of cause and 
effect, but comes under conscious and deliberate social 

Social knowledge can only come into existence on the 
basis of a development of material production in the 
process of which every new generation receives from its 
1 Engels, Dialectic of Mature (1930), p. 125. 


predecessor, together with the accumulated heritage of 
productive forces, a heritage of experience embodied in a 
known sum of knowledge. 

• Materialism before Marx was only a contemplative 
materialism, since it considered the question of knowledge 
apart from its connection with social-historic practice. 
The problem for Marx is to explain man's sensuous experi- 
ence, his hate and love, his joys and sufferings, by the 
historically existing, form of social practice and the class 
struggle. Only by such a method can we understand the 
significance of human experience and the actions arising 
therefrom, which are not the same for people of different 
epochs and different classes. 

In material production the subjective experiences of 
people are not separated from the material objects of the 
external world. The material objects of nature are in 
practice found in unity with the social action of people 
and, through such action, are also found in unity with the 
process of knowledge of these people. When we consider 
the objects of material production, for example the appli- 
ances of material production — machine-tools, turbines, 
tractors, we find in them the subjective action of people, 
the social practice of many generations of men, which has 
passed into the definite forms of these objects. 

The article which appears to exist in objective reality, 
without dependence on people or their knowledge, is seen 
in social practice to be in union with the action and know- 
ledge of people. In the process of material production, and 
on the basis of human productive activity, a knowledge of 
material nature becomes a necessary factor in the produc- 
tion of articles. In any tool of production a definite historic 
stage of social practice and knowledge is embodied. Modern 
machines assume not only a modern level of development 
of people's productive activity, but also in conjunction 
with it more than twenty centuries of scientific develop- 

The transition of the action of social beings into an 
article is actualized in the process of production. Marx 



shows in Capital that during the process of labour that 
labour is continually changing from the form of action 
into the form of being. In the process of labour subjective 
action enters into the article, enters into unity with the 
article by working on it. In social practice the forms of a 
material article are changed. From an external object of 
nature, independent of society, the article is turned into a 
social article indissolubly linked up with the whole complex 
of social practice. Thus in the process of material produc- 
tion, in social practice, a material object becomes a social 
object, and the social subjective action of people becomes 
objective. Thus in practice is realized the unity of subject 
and object. So we see it is only possible to resolve the 
question of the mutual action of subject and object, of 
thought and being, in social practice. 


Social practice is not a form of activity that is inde- 
pendent of the time-factor; it emerges in a quite definite 
form at each given historical stage of social development. 
In such a concrete historic form Marx regards the question 
when he speaks of the criterion of practice. Every social 
class has its determinate criterion of practice. In every 
historic epoch this criterion is changed ; it is changed along 
with the development of the class in the course of its 
historical role. The material content of practice, the his- 
torically determined processes of material production were, 
and are, for the classes concerned, the criterion of truth 
and the criterion of the understanding of objective material 

The patriarchal tribal society with its primitive ways of 
production was unacquainted with the productive possi- 
bilities of coal. The possibility of using coal was only dis- 
covered at the period of the merchant capitalist relation- 
ships which arose in the feudal period in the twelfth century 
(near Liege in Belgium). 



The extraction of iron, copper and silver has now 
proceeded for nearly 6,000 years. But neither the Assyr- 
ian treatment of copper, nor the working of iron in 
very ancient China, nor the mining industry in ancient 
Rome could serve as a practical basis for wide geological 
generalizations. For wide theoretical generalizations there 
•was needed a long process of mining production, a wide 
extension of mining, the knowledge of how to remove 
subterranean water, and the utilization of a great many 
other technical devices. The development of the com- 
mercial-capitalist type of industry in the sixteenth century 
allows the whole practice of mining to be transformed into 
a science. The experience of mining production became so 
wide, and the diversity of mine workings so great, that the 
science of geology may be said to begin from this time. 

Experience is the sum, the result of social practice. Only in that 
experience which is the aggregate of the practical attain- 
ments of society do we disclose the objectively existing 
material reality. " In experience," according to Lenin, 
" emerge objects of understanding, independent of under- 

Periodic winds and sea currents existed long before the 
appearance of organic life, existed millions of years before 
the appearance of the social practice and knowledge of 
men. But a long period of development of practical naviga- 
tion was necessary before it was possible to understand 
these winds and currents. Navigation, although consider- 
ably developed by the Phoenicians, by the Greeks, and by 
the Alexandrians of the first and second centuries, had not 
yet accumulated sufficient experience for these scientific 
discoveries. Only the changes resulting from the rising 
capitalist organization of production created the practical 
foundation for such knowledge. 

The basis of knowledge in the example we give was 
merchant-capitalist practice, yet in its experience of sea- 
travelling this class summed up not only its own practice 
but also the practice of those stages of social evolution that 
had preceded it. Shipbuilding, the building of wharfs for 



boats, and many different ways of rigging a ship, were 
already known in periods of more primitive methods of 

All the earlier developments of historic practice are 
summed up in the experience of every epoch. That is just 
why Marx-Leninism seeks to resolve the question of know- 
ledge and experience on the basis of all social practice. 
This implies a radical change in the manner in which these 
problems are to be approached. 

By including the criterion of practice in the theory of 
knowledge, Marxism leaves no place for the Kantian 
" thing in itself." For Kant the " thing in itself" was a 
secret, unknowable essence, inaccessible to our senses and 
to our knowledge alike. The material object ceases to be a 
secret, "thing in itself," as soon as it emerges in the process 
of production, as soon as it is reproduced in industry. 

The development of the productive process actually 
changes the objects of material nature; where at first they 
were virtually unknown and unknowable, they eventually 
take shape and become known. " What we can do" as 
Engels rightly declared, " that, of course, we cannot call 

" For the chemistry of the first half of the nineteenth 
century," wrote Engels, " organic compounds were such 
unknown things. But to-day we are succeeding in making 
them one after the other by means of the synthesis of 
chemical elements and with no recourse to organic pro- 
cesses." The objective material world is revealed by 
practice. Processes that seemed to be inaccessible to know- 
ledge and to exist independently of knowledge emerge as 
part of the practice of a particular stage in social develop- 
ment. Thus a whole range of entirely new laws in thermo- 
dynamics, chemistry and electricity have been discovered 
in the process of modern social practice. 

This explains what we mean when we say that practice 
is the real key to our knowledge of the external world. 
" The question whether objective truth can be attributed 
to human thinking is not a question of theory but is a 


practical question. The dispute over the reality or non- 
reality of thinking which is isolated from practice is a 
purely scholastic question," says Marx in his second thesis 
on Feuerbach. The best refutation of Kantian and Humist 
agnosticism as of other philosophical fancies is practice, 
or as Engels rightly says : " The success of our actions 
proves the agreement of our perceptions with the appre- 
hensible objective truth of things." 

However conditional and imperfect our knowledge at 
any stage may be, it reflects objective material reality, 
approximating to absolute truth. The fact that we can and 
do know the truth and are really in touch with objective 
material nature is proved to us by our practice, which 
turns our knowledge into actual existing objects of produc- 
tion and remakes and changes material actuality. 

But it would be a crude distortion and vulgarization of 
Marxism to see in the Marx-Leninist doctrine of practice 
as the criterion of truth a negation of the vast importance 
of theoretical analysis and theoretical verification of differ- 
ent logical conclusions. Dialectical Materialism has nothing 
in common with the cheap rule-of- thumb thinking that 
has no use for abstract thought and general ideas. " Prac- 
tice is higher than theoretical knowledge," says Lenin, 
" because it has not only the virtue of generality, but also 
of immediate actuality." A logical development of ideas 
is possible because the mind engages in the task of inter- 
preting and working over the historical process which it 
reflects. But all such thinking, even when it uses the 
generalizations of preceding practice, must instantly be 
tested by scientific experiment and social practice. 

Pre-Marxian philosophy tries to find the criterion of truth 
in knowledge itself. Descartes sees the criterion of truth in 
clearness and precision of ideas. Kant saw the criterion of 
truth in the universal and necessary character of know- 
ledge itself. Contemporary mathematical logic, in the 
person of Russell, Cantor and others, perceives the criterion 
of truth in the logical formal succession of mathematical 
conclusions. None of these forms of rationalistic idealism 


makes any attempt to find the criterion of truth in the 
external world. But knowledge considered as an abstract 
system of ideas, however self-consistent, clear and precise 
that system may be, can never be a criterion of objectivity. 
When Marx speaks of finding a criterion of truth by sub- 
jective practice he does not mean by subjective what 
Berkeley or Mach would mean, he means that the subject 
only reaches truth in so far as and in the manner in which 
he engages in activity in relation to the external world, in 
the course of which activity he changes that world. The 
practical point of view is the subjective point of view in the 
sense that it proceeds from the concrete activity of social 
man. True subjectivity is the breaking down of the separa- 
tion of idea and object, and it is obviously one and the 
same thing as practice. The objective world (objective 
truth) is through practice reflected in knowledge and ceases 
to be a strange world separate from human knowledge 


In class society there cannot be extra-class practice and 
extra-class knowledge. The criterion of truth in class society 
is the practice of the given class. 

In the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries, 
when the bourgeoisie was struggling with feudalism for 
mastery; and in thefirst half of the nineteenth century, when 
capitalism had not yet arrived at the period of its decay, 
capitalist practice was the criterion of progressive know- 

The philosophic systems, natural-scientific theories, 
social-political views of that epoch remain among the 
greatest achievements of the history of progressive social 

But however progressive the views of Bacon were in com- 
parison with the scholastic philosophy of the Middle Ages, 
whatever shattering arguments from the idealistic point of 
view Hegel brought against the Kantian " thing in itself," 


the philosophic views of these giants of theoretical thought 
retain their bourgeois limitations. 

The dialectic of Hegel remained a mystical idealistic 
dialectic. " The whole Darwinian teaching about the 
struggle for existence," writes Engels, " is simply a trans- 
ference of the bourgeois economic teaching on competition 
(and also the Malthusian theory) from the sphere of society 
to the sphere of nature." 

The capitalistic means of production could make possible 
the emergence of a number of theories — scientific, technical, 
philosophic — among which, some have reflected, though in 
a distorted form, others have only guessed at, different sides 
of objective actuality. The capitalist practice of a given 
time could be the basis of progressive knowledge. But at no 
stage of the development of capitalism, even in the epoch 
of the revolutionary uprising of the bourgeoisie, could its 
historically limited practice create a theory of know- 
ledge correctly reflecting the contradictions of objective 

At the heart of capitalism lies that principle of exploita- 
tion which called into being a development of the produc- 
tive forces unheard of until that time, with which develop- 
ment a remarkable expansion of the mathematical and 
natural sciences was closely connected; but at the same 
time it was this very principle of exploitation that was 
responsible for the distorted representation of the main 
forces of capitalist production, especially of the essential 
principle of capitalism itself, which appears in a curiously 
mystified form. 

The basic contradictions of bourgeois thought are rooted 
in the contradictions of the capitalistic mode of production 
itself. And so such works as Capital by Marx, Imperialism as 
the Latest Stage of Capitalism by Lenin, which uncover the 
contradictions of capitalism, acquire great importance for 
the theory of knowledge. 

Marx discloses the character of capitalistic relationships, 
beginning with the simple categories of capitalist economy, 
from that period when capitalistic relationships were not 



yet dominant, and ending with the period of their revolu- 
tionary overthrow. 

In trade and finance, in capital and profit, in wages, in 
the form of surplus value, in the reproduction of capital, 
etc., Marx discloses the mystification, the distorted con- 
ception of actual relationships, that is proper to bourgeois 
practice itself. 

In bourgeois society mutual relationships between people 
" in the social-productive process lead," says Marx, " above 
all to this, that their own productive relationships which 
stand outside their control and outside their conscious indi- 
vidual action, take on a ' thingified ' character, in conse- 
quence of which, all the products of their work take on the 
form of commodities." 

Relations between people become possible only through 
the means of things, through the " thing "-form of commo- 
dities and money, by means of capital, and interest, and so 
much per cent. And so the social relationships between 
people are distorted, are mystified. 

Even a long time before capitalism became supreme, 
wherever trade and money circulation appeared, there 
appeared at the same time distortions of actual human 
relationships. " All forms of society," says Marx, " to the 
extent that they reach the stage of commodity production 
and money circulation, are to a more or less degree charac- 
terized by such a distortion of actual relationships." 

On the basis of the dominance of the bourgeoisie, thanks 
to the lordship of capital in production, the social forces of 
labour present themselves to the bourgeoisie in a distorted 
aspect, as if they generate themselves in the womb of capital 
itself. Thanks to an objectively existing exchange a dis- 
torted conception of profit is created, as if it arose out of 
circulation and not by the appropriation by a capitalist of 
the unpaid labour of a worker. 

Marx establishes that capitalist practice in the whole complex 
of its social relations gives to itself such a form as does not correspond 
with its real nature. 

The capitalistic sources of income and forms of income 



" express," says Marx, " the relations of capitalist produc- 
tion in a fetishistic form. Their nature, as it appears on the 
surface,, is cut off from its hidden connection and real 
origins-. Thus ground becomes the source of ground-rent, 
capital is the source of profit and labour the source of 

Marx is not concerned with passing a moral judgment on 
capitalism, or expressing indignation at its injustices in the 
manner of Rousseau who declared feudalism to be " con- 
trary to nature." Marx discloses the actual distortion that 
exists in the capitalist order of production which is reflected 
in the distortions and mystifications that exist in bourgeois 

The capitalist means of production, in the light of this 
distorted bourgeois consciousness, is accepted as an eternal 
immutable phenomenon, as the relationship of natural man 
to nature (as was thought in the epoch of enlightenment in 
the eighteenth century) as the sole form of relationship of 
man to man (vulgar political economy), hired labour being 
supposed to comprise all possible forms of labour. 

Bourgeois thought always considers the capitalist means 
of production as historically unchangeable, permanent and 
existing everywhere that men exist. 

It moves in a constricted fashion within the limits set by 
capitalist social relationships. The system of exploitation, 
the movement of capitalist forces, fix the very forms of 
thought just as they determine economic practice. 

It is for this reason that bourgeois economics suffers from 
such severe limitations. Even its most useful ideas remain 
in some degree under the sway of the distortions of actual 
relationships that capitalism cannot but produce and repro- 
duce. True their own criticisms have already destroyed 
many of the dogmas of orthodox capitalist economics, but 
since they are not free to break completely away into 
socialist economics this only deepens the confusion and 
illogicality of their latest theories. Hence their half-way 
policies and hopeless contradictions, while the actual laws 
of capitalist production remain for them an unguessed 



secret. Bourgeois thought cannot pass beyond the stage of 
discrediting the semblance without revealing the essential 
truth which it has obscured, just as Kant shows that 
phenomena are only the appearance of reality but is entirely 
unable to tell us anything about the unknown" thing in 

In every sphere of thought -bourgeois thinkers will be 
found creating individualistic theories, interpreting the 
universe in terms of the sanctity of private property, and 
separating man from his necessary place in the community. 
Philosophers as different in their outlook as Spengler, Max 
Stirner, Fichte and Hume, will all be found exalting the 
individual and his sensations and the individual and his 
private property as the criterion of reality and the key to 
the understanding of the universe. 

But the reactionary elements in individualistic bour- 
geois thought emerge most clearly in our own epoch, in 
which the contradictions of capitalism have been sharpened 
to the limit — the epoch of imperialism and proletarian 

The concealed laws and connections of the capitalist 
system can be actually disclosed and known only from an 
anti-capitalist proletarian point of view. 

When human society is really understood and capitalism 
is revealed as one of its necessary forms of development, the 
class struggle is seen to be the basis of its movement, of its 
progress into a new and higher form. From this point of 
view, which was that of Marx, the laws of the rise and fall 
of capitalism, of the movement of the proletariat and of the 
proletarian revolution are revealed. From the standpoint 
of Marx the revolutionary destruction of capitalism has 
become historically necessary and also the building up 
under conditions of proletarian dictatorship of a socialist 
society, of a collectivized society. 

In distinction from other oppressed classes, the proletariat 
goes through the grim school of large-scale capitalist pro- 
duction. This form of exploitation and the struggle against 
it train the proletariat in habits of joint social work and 


create the possibility of party political solidarity and 

The proletariat is the only class that is able, logically and 
finally, to struggle against capitalist exploitation and 
private property in the means of production, against the 
actually existing irrationality and mystification of the 
practice of capitalism. 

" Only that class among the oppressed classes which has 
been taught, united, disciplined, tempered by decades of 
industrial conflict, which has assimilated all the culture 
of urban, industrial large-scale capitalism and which has 
the ability and determination to defend, to preserve and 
further develop these achievements, to make them 
accessible to all the people, to all workers, only that class 
which knows how to endure all the burdens, torments, 
misfortunes, great sacrifices that are inevitably laid by 
history on whosoever breaks away from the past and 
courageously opens up for himself a road to a new future 
— only that class which has passed through the hardening 
school of toil and knows how to inspire with respect for 
his labour every working man, every honourable man — 
only such a class can destroy the classes which it super- 
sedes by its own dictatorship " (Lenin). 

Lenin, as we see, in his approach to the question of the 
independent class-movement of the proletariat, attributes 
great importance to the character of the work of the, prole- 
tariat under capitalism. The working class in the conditions 
of capitalist production is the greatest productive force. The 
proletariat is the immediate producer in bourgeois society. 
It is their activity and not that of the capitalist that transfers 
itself to and comes into unity with the material object. 

The conditions of large-scale capitalist industry foster in 
the revolutionary class such habits of approach to the object 
as are not possible to the capitalist, whose basic motive of 
action is " exchange value and its increase." Therefore 
only the ideologies of the working class can work out a 


logical materialistic attitude towards the object, towards 
those actual processes in which the proletariat itself takes 
part as a producing force. 

The dialectical point of view towards material actuality, 
as we shall trace in detail further on, has as its most highly 
developed form the logical revolutionary political struggle 
of the proletariat which is directed to the destruction of 

While it is true as we have seen that the very character of 
the activity of the proletariat has already created all the 
necessary conditions for working out a logical materialistic 
philosophy of nature and society, we must yet remember 
that in capitalist society there exists between the worker 
and the means of labour a severance which is conditioned 
by the whole economic structure of capitalism. The means 
and instruments of labour are the private property of the 
capitalists. The progress of capitalist technique and of in- 
dustrial organization emerges as a hostile force in relation 
to the worker, as a force that increases unemployment and 

The social character of labour is itself under capitalism 
" a kind of force foreign to the worker " (Marx). For the 
condition that makes real the social character of labour, of 
co-operation of workers in the process of material produc- 
tion, is such that the worker only feels it as an external 

Capital makes use of every available means to distort the 
consciousness of the worker. The bourgeois school, the 
Church, the Press make it their task to suppress in the 
worker his power to oppose capitalism, to foster in him the 
ideology of the slave who is content in his slavery. 

In the epoch of imperialism sections of the workers, 
because of privileged material conditions, identify then- 
interests with the success of their capitalist masters, and 
help to spread the ideology of capitalism among the 
workers. This particularly applies to the trade union and 
political bureaucracy, which with the spread of democratic 
institutions is increasingly drawn into the State machinery 


for the preservation of the existing system, and is therefore 
led into opposition to the forces making for social change. 
The bourgeois political education of the workers is being 
assiduously promoted by every one of the political parties 
of the bourgeoisie, whose first and radical task is a pitiless 
struggle against the party of the proletariat, the com- 
munist party. But the more the contradictions of capitalism 
deepen and the fiercer becomes the class struggle, so much 
the more conscious and revolutionary become the working 
masses and with still less success can the bourgeoisie apply 
its methods of deforming and distorting the consciousness 
of the worker. 


Bourgeois individualism when it becomes the ideology of 
monopoly capital, an ideology which is organically at one 
with the aggressive politics of imperialism, emerges stripped 
of all disguise. One of the clearest examples of the decay of 
bourgeois thought is to be found in the pragmatic theory of 
knowledge, which reduces the whole question to one of 
practical advantage and the wishes of the individual. For 
me, says William James, the founder of pragmatism, only 
that which is practically useful is truth. Truth is not 
actuality reflected in our thinking, but that which happens 
to suit the needs and feelings of an individual personality. 
Such a view is far removed from the conception of know- 
ledge as a reflection of material reality. 

The British representative of the pragmatist philosophy, 
Schiller, develops a number of possible definitions of truth. 
Truth as necessity, as correspondence with an object, as 
that which is self-evident, as authenticity. All these defini- 
tions are from Schiller's point of view only expressions of 
the different psychical states of the subject. Truth is not 
arrived at in the process of reflecting material reality by 
the thought of social man — truths are created by man. Of 
the numerous definitions of truth, man selects those which 
are most suitable to him at a given moment, those which 


best express his will, his desires and personal interests. 
Truth is a working hypothesis which has no relationship to 
the actual development of the material world and always 
remains merely an hypothesis. The only things with which 
truth can agree are the personal acts and aspirations of 

Pragmatism means that instead of allowing truth to 
reflect objective reality whether we like what we see or not, 
we construct a version that suits our desires and see whether 
we can maintain it in the face of the facts. For so long as we 
can do so this version is truth. 

Thus a financial swindler wishes to persuade his victims, 
the public, his fellow financiers and the law that his schemes 
are perfectly honest. He therefore constructs a complete 
case and puts it about with all the conviction he can muster. 
It is very much to his interests that it shall be believed. Now 
according to pragmatism as long as he can get it believed 
it is " true." Conformity to fact, according to pragmatism, 
is no test at all. For after all what is fact ? There are only 
the facts as they appear to you and me, and very often they 
appear quite different to you and me, as visitors to the 
U.S.S.R. discover ! Actually there are no bare facts, there 
are only human judgments about facts, and judgments are 
really points of view not photographs of reality. 

The only useful evidence is the evidence produced by the 
financier and in his hands, as we know, the facts come to 
look quite different, much more innocent than they did in 
the hands of a suspicious lawyer. 

Thus Pirandello, in his play You're right if you thinkyou are" 
gives us two versions of the inaccessible " thing as it is," 
which are quite contradictory and yet each of which can 
be made to appear as true as the other. 

" You want documentary proofs in order to affirm or 
deny ! I have no use for them, for, in my opinion, reality 
does not lie in these, but in the mind of these two persons 
into which I cannot enter unless by that evidence which 
they themselves give me." 


Pragmatism was advocated by Papini the Italian fascist 
philosopher and exerted a powerful influence over Mus- 
solini. Under fascist rule pragmatism means that whatever 
view of events you can persuade the world to accept is 
" truth." Have supreme confidence in your own version of 
affairs, trust your own optimistic presentation, insist on it, 
get it accepted. It is as true as any other. It is the only 
truth if you can get it believed in preference to any other ver- 
sion of the facts. 

Whether you are convincing the outside world or your 
own people the principle is the same. As long as propaganda 
keeps the system going because it goes on being believed, 
your world view, your "Third Reich," your renewed 
nation, your fiction, is successful, maintains itself,- and is 
therefore true. 

There is not a country in the capitalist world today in 
which a great myth has not to be believed in the interests of 
the- status quo. The United States has its great myth, Great 
Britain and the Empire, the toiling millions of Japan and 
India. Every myth misrepresents the facts. But every myth 
holds the masses hypnotized in subjection. Therefore it is 
true. Hence the immense popularity of pragmatism in a 
decaying world in which it is not convenient for the masses 
to know the truth. Truth, pragmatism claims, is what is 
valuable to the knower. But what is most valuable to a 
capitalist knower is a successful lie, so that lie is the truth 
as long as he can get it believed. 

But it is in opposition to such " value " determinations of 
truth' that the whole of science has made headway. En- 
lightenment and criticism mean little more than conscious 
discrimination against fictions which are merely useful and 
not true. The scientist has to learn to forgo the pleasing and 
the hopeful hypothesis. Knowledge is a means of adapta- 
tion to experience not in proportion to its pleasantness and 
hopefulness, but in proportion as it dispels illusions, be they 
ever so grateful and inspiring. 

But suppose the class conscious workers come forward 
with their own theory and after a revolution impose their 


ideas on the masses and on the bourgeoisie. Once again we 
have a theory, this time the Marxian theory, that works. 
Is it not regarded as true on just the same grounds as the 
fascist theory ? Does it not maintain itself by just the same 
vicious propaganda ? Not in the least. The. fascist theory is 
held to be true only because it works in the sense that by 
propaganda the system keeps going. The Marxian theory 
works because it is true and if if did not work it would not 
be true. The fallacy is a logical one. Because every true 
theory works that is not to say that every theory that works 
is true. Many false theories work for quite a long time yet 
they are not true even while they are working satisfactorily. 

Marxism is true not because it works in this sense but 
because it is always being tested by the facts and because 
it arises out of the facts. Therefore for the great mass of the 
people it is believed not because it is put across by successful 
propaganda but because it corresponds with the facts known 
to the workers, because as a working hypothesis it is 
repeatedly verified by social experiment and achievement. 

Verifying an hypothesis by the test of facts is a very 
different process from choosing an hypothesis because we 
like it. An hypothesis is verified by finding out what facts 
would follow from it, and then looking to the facts to see 
whether they are as the hypothesis demands. The unfavour- 
able answer is taken as well as the favourable and the hypo- 
thesis modified accordingly. 

Marxism is always being verified by experiment. Fascism 
presents conceptions that are only believed because the 
desire to do so outweighs all the factual evidence against 

Pragmatism is the decadent philosophic ideology of im- 
perialism. For the bourgeois of the epoch of imperialism the 
objective processes of development, the laws of social history, 
are something foreign to his personal will, his' actions and 
his interests. At every step of his action he encounters 
movements of working-class revolutionary action that are 
strange to him — crises, the contraction or disappearance of 
markets. This is where pragmatic philosophy comes to his 



aid, for it " easily proves " that crises are not conditioned 
by active law, that one ought to seek the truth, not in them, 
but in the practical interests of the agents of the capitalist 
means of production. Truth is given not in the process of 
reflecting the object, but in the subject and its personal 
actions. Only by personal actions based on individual 
interests is it possible, from the pragmatic point of view, to 
establish or refute a given truth. 

" About pragmatism," wrote Lenin, " the philosophic 
journals say just about everything. Pragmatism ridicules 
metaphysics and materialism and idealism, exalts experi- 
ence and only experience, acknowledges practice as the 
sole criterion, completely accepts the positivist flux m 
general, holds that science is not an ' absolute copy of 
reality,' and happily deduces from all this a God who 
exists only to serve man's practical aims, only for practice, 
without any metaphysics, without any reality, beyond 
the bounds of experience." 1 

Pragmatism is one of the extreme forms of bourgeois 
subjectivism. Only that which " helps us and works on us " 
is true for us, says Dewey. Truth is an instrument and not 
a reflection of the material process, and the theory of truth 
is the theory of the instrument. Wherefore John Dewey 
calls pragmatism instrumentalism. 

Monopoly capitalism has brought to extremity the con- 
tradictions of bourgeois society. Attempts to reconcile the 
demands of individuality with the objective process of 
actuality on the basis of an adequate reflection of the latter 
are being made less and less frequently. To most bourgeois 
philosophers of the imperialist epoch the view that, know- 
ledge can be the reflection of the objective process of 
development-appears as something monstrous. 

Pragmatism has most accurately formulated the turning 
of bourgeois knowledge away from the attempt to disclose 
the essence of the contradictions of the objective process of 
1 Lenin, vol. xiii, p. 279. 


material actuality. We cannot know the actuality of the 
material world and its internal contradictions, as realities 
independent of us, say all pragmatists without exception. 
Knowledge is a working hypothesis (James), an instrument 
which depends on our interests and advantages (Dewey), 
on our " internal sensation " (James). The only thing 
accessible to us is our practice, everything that goes beyond 
is unknowable. 



Only by proceeding from material social practice as 
the basis of the theory of knowledge were Marx, Engels 
and Lenin able to resolve the problem of the connection 
of subject and object, to uncover the historical, evolutionary 
character of that connection. 

Human knowledge of reality passes in the course of its 
development through different moments or gradations that 
mark the comprehension by man of the ever more deep and 
many-sided connections of the material world. Lenin 
expounds as follows the movement by which knowledge 
attains greater and greater depth. 

" At first — impressions, as in a flash, then — something 
is distinguished, then — ideas of quality are developed 
(leading to a definition of a thing or phenomenon) and 
subsequently, ideas of quantity. Then study and reflection 
direct the thought to questions of identity and difference 
— basis — essence. All these moments or steps of know- 
ledge are directed from the subject to the object, verify 
themselves by practice and proceed through this verifica- 
tion to truth." 

From the direct perception of reality, of sense data, of 
separate impressions, received by the aid of our senses, man 
proceeds to the stage of defining a thing and reaching an 
" idea " of it, to the disclosure of its connections, the law 
of its development, and all this he verifies in practice. 


Among all these different moments of knowledge the 
problem of the relation and connection between sense data 
and idea, between immediate and developed knowledge, 
the problem of the importance and role of each of these at 
each stage of knowledge, has occupied a central place in 
philosophy through the whole course of its history. Even 
in ancient Greece the question was being raised in a general 
way. What is truth, sense perceptions or " logos " (reason) ? 
If sense perceptions then how are we able to make any 
kind of unity out of their diversity ?. The question is really 
this, if by truth we mean that our understanding reflects 
reality, how can we be sure that it is possible to pass from 
a number of separate sensations to these general ideas 
through which we understand ? The failure to solve this 
question led to scepticism and relativism (the admission 
by the Sophists of the absolute relativity of all that exists — 
including our knowledge), to the denial of the reality of 
movement (the Eieatics), to the construction of idealistic 
systems (Plato, for whom the sensed, material world is 
virtually non-existent). 

In the working out of dialectic as a theory of knowledge 
Lenin insistently stressed this problem of the transition of 
one moment of knowledge to another and the helplessness 
of pre-Marxian philosophy to solve it. He sees in this failure 
one of the stumbling-blocks of the Greek and also the 
modern philosophers. 

Lenin shows that a successful approach to this problem 
must unite the different streams in the history of philosophy, 
for example the Sophists with Kant and Mach; Hegel and 
Plato with Epicurus and Locke. 

The ancient Greek rationalist Zeno regarded movement 
as " sensed truth." But he did not limit himself to the mere 
admission of this as a fact. He was one of the first in the 
history of philosophy to show the contradictory aspects of 
movement — the contradictions of discreteness and con- 
tinuity, of rest and motion. He was one of the first to set 
before himself the problem of understanding the connection 
of these aspects and in this is his great historical service. 


But being a metaphysician he could not comprehend this 
contradiction in terms of fixed concepts, and therefore as a 
rationalist came to a denial of the reality of movement, and 
opposed to it, as to a deception of the senses involving 
hopeless contradiction, rest and identity (grasped in 
metaphysical conceptions) as the real essence of things. 

Lenin formulated Zeno's problem thus — the question is 
not whether there is such a thing as movement, this is 
acknowledged as a fact of experience, but how to express 
it in the logic of fixed concepts. 

In the history of recent philosophy the different attempts 
to solve the question whether scientific knowledge is based 
on sense experience or reason, give rise to different philo- 
sophical movements, sensationalism, empiricism (from the 
Latin word " sensus," the faculty of feeling, and the Greek 
" suTrapicc," experience) and rationalism (from the Latin 
" ratio," reason). 

Sensationalism was at the basis of the theories of know- 
ledge of the various materialistic schools which emerged 
in the struggle with mediaeval scholasticism and with the 
thoroughgoing rationalism of classic German idealism; 
these schools were represented by the English philosophers 
Bacon and Locke, the French materialists of the eighteenth 
century and Feuerbach. Nevertheless from this same 
sensationalist point of view, philosophers have also been 
able to draw subjective idealist conclusions. 

The classic representatives of such sensationalist idealism 
were Berkeley and Hume. How was it that such a remark- 
able combination of two sharply opposed philosophies 
should be found in this common derivation from sensation- 
lism ? Special attention must be paid to this problem 
because it demonstrates clearly that the " freezing " of any 
one " moment " of knowledge and the tearing of it out of 
its connection with knowledge as a whole in an abstract, 
metaphysical fashion, serves as a loophole for the idealist, 
and, in a favourable class setting (which always helps one 
or the other party in philosophy and fortifies its conclusions) , 
may be converted into a whole idealistic system. 



Over what did Berkeley and Hume and in our day Mach 
stumble when they found themselves compelled to deny in 
one form or another the objectivity of the external world, 
although they had set out by admitting sensation as the 
sole source and material of knowledge ? 

The course of their reasoning is as follows : 

To man are given directly his perceptions, his sensation. 
They are the only material of knowledge. In the perceptions 
themselves there is no internal necessary connection. Con- 
nection is nothing else than particular combinations of 
perceptions in the stream of the psychical experiences of the 
subject. Wherefore any statements about the objectivity of 
the logical categories — causality, interaction, substance, etc. 
— are pure metaphysics reflecting nothing real in the sensed 
material of knowledge. The logical categories are only 
schemes which we use for organizing sense data, and for 
this or the other evaluation of them. But these schemes and 
this evaluation are entirely subjective. They are subjective 
first of all in relation to the external world, for which there 
is no more evidence, from the sensationalist point of view, 
than there is for, say, the devil (since experience offers 
evidence for nothing but itself) ; secondly, these logical 
schemes are subjective in relation to the very sense data of 
knowledge themselves, since they are determined by the 
peculiar constitution of the subject, i.e. in the last analysis, 
by the aggregate of the subject's former psychical experi- 
ences as well as by that group of sensations on which its 
attention is now directed. 

The assertion of materialists, namely that the necessary 
objective connection between sensed phenomena is con- 
firmed by experience and practice, is an elementary logical 
mistake, because experience itself, and therefore practice, 
is nothing other than a mass of psychical experiences, so 
that its unity and connection are derived not from the 
external world, but from the mental states themselves. The 
world of man is limited by its " human experience " and 
beyond its bounds, for a " positive " scientific knowledge, 
there exists nothing. 



And so the root error of sensationalism, which has been 
developed by subjective idealists into a whole philosophic 
system, consists in this — that it has concerned itself solely 
with the question of the source and content of knowledge 
and has left out of account the question of the forms of 
knowledge and their foundation, in which are expressed 
the connections and transitions given in sensed experience 
itself. Subjective idealists have turned their sense data, 
in which sensationalism rightly saw the final means of 
knowledge, into the sole object of knowledge. 

Proceeding from the ground that every object of know- 
ledge in the last resort appears before us in its sensed form, 
they have exalted to an absolute, the discreteness, the 
specific character that belongs to it as a moment, and have 
in this way deprived the object of every internal necessary 
connection. For example, to a bored man time seems " an 
eternity," to a cheerful man " an instant," to the soldier, 
who goes on the march with fresh powers it is nothing to 
cover forty versts, but to the tired man even two versts 
appear to be a big distance. In this way the subjective 
idealists have returned to the position of the ancient Greek 
sceptic Protagoras, who said that " man is the measure of 
all things " and took away from science its only basis — the 
objective, law-governed connection of phenomena. 

Actually, by remaining on the ground of mere sensations, 
it is impossible to show, for example, that it is not the sun 
that goes round the earth, but the earth that goes round the 
sun, that thunder and lightning appear simultaneously 
and not one after the other. In this way, by contending for 
the rights of the senses in knowledge, as the sole source of 
" real given-ness," by contending against " metaphysics," 
against the lessening of the rights of the senses by." wilful 
reason," subjective idealists inevitably arrive at a self- 
destructive conclusion, at complete disbelief in sense 
experience, since in effect they have deprived it of its 
objective content and of those laws which made it rational. 
Lenin has many times drawn attention to this: " Phenom- 
enalists like Mach and Co."— he says— "when they attempt 



to deal with the question of law and necessity unavoidably 
become idealists." 

The weakness of resting in the moment of simple per- 
ception and the kind of idealistic error this involves, is 
clearly seen in Plekhanov's theory of knowledge. We have in 
view in the first place, his so-called " hieroglyphic " theory. 
Plekhanov borrowed the theory of hieroglyphics principally 
from the natural scientists, Seclienov and Helmholtz. 

Helmholtz in particular expresses with remarkable 
clarity that distrust of all sense experience which springs 
from the isolation of the perceptual moment of knowledge. 
He tries to prove that visual perception is completely 
relative. For example, people perceive the colours of flowers 
differently. There are even those who suffer from so-called 
Daltonism, to whom violet appears green, yellow — pink, and 
so on. Indeed, even to the eye of a healthy man an object 
may appear differently. For instance, if the image of an 
object falls on the so-called " blind spot " of the eye, then 
the man cannot see the object at all; he will see it again 
only by shifting the retina. From the relativity of our visual 
perception, Helmholtz concludes that the image of the 
object in our consciousness is quite unlike the object itself, 
that it is only a hieroglyph, a symbol (conventional sign) of 
some object that exists outside our consciousness. We know 
that this object exists, because we feel its action on us (and 
only the results of this action can we know, in the opinion 
of the agnostic), but we never know the object itself, and 
can never define it. We can only say that to the relations 
between sensations there are corresponding relations 
between real objects, and to the changes of sensation there 
correspond changes in the object. But we shall never be 
able to know what these objects are and what is the real 
nature of the changes that go on within them. 

Engels in his time showed Helmholtz V fundamental mis- 
take to lie in his separation of sensational and logical know- 
ledge, " Helmholtz forgets," said Engels, " that thought 
also is united with our eye." 
. This same agnostic " theory of correspondence " was 


borrowed by Plekhanov too from those scientists who fell 
into Kantianism and was adopted by him in place of the 
Marxist theory of reflection. 

Later on Plekhanov sought to explain away his mistake 
by ascribing it to unsuccessful terminology, to the abuse of 
the term " hieroglyph," but continued to hold the " theory 
of correspondence " without realizing its Kantian signifi- 
cance. The core of this agnostic error of Plekhanov 
was shown by Lenin in Materialism and Empirio-Criticism. 
In defence of the hieroglyphic theory against Lenin's 
criticism, Axelrod came forward declaring that contem- 
porary science also took the same attitude towards the 
" symbolic " character of knowledge. But if sensationalism 
is incapable of showing the validity of the system of scien-^ 
tific laws which underlies the connections and changes of 
things, can we not turn to the rationalist philosophers who 
regard the logical working of the mind as the real ground 
of rational knowledge ? Descartes, Spinoza, Leibnitz— the 
chief representatives of the rationalistic tendency of the 
philosophy of the seventeenth century— regarded sense 
knowledge as something dim and untrustworthy. The task 
of the true method, in their opinion, is precisely this, to 
purify knowledge from fluidity, ^substantiality, and its 
overload of ephemeral fortuitous appearances which some- 
times seem, as it were, to add additional and unreal data 
to sense knowledge. And so the conclusion to which the 
rationalists arrive runs as follows: The freer that logical 
thought is from sensation, the more truly will it reflect the 
essence of the object. Thus, in absolute knowledge (about 
which all the rationalists speak as about something attain- 
able by every thinker who possesses the right method) 
thought finds itself" in its own sphere," being perfectly free 
from all the elements of sensation. Quality of "intellect " 
consists, above all, in its complete insulation from sense . 

It stands to reason that by remaining in the .sphere of 
thought itself rationalists could not explain the develop- 
ment of thought, its ever deepening comprehension of 



actuality. Truth, in the teaching of the rationalists, presents 
a picture of death-like immobility, a grey frozen waste 
unstirred by a breath of movement. 

The marks of truly scientific knowledge are, from the 
rationalist point of view, the generality and necessity of its 
propositions. By generality is meant applicability to all 
experienced facts without exception, and by necessity that 
the minds of all men must compel them to acknowledge such 
a truth. These are obviously the marks of purely logical 
knowledge, not the knowledge derived from sense experi- 
ence. But whence does the rationalist derive his unified 
system of relationships which according to him underlies 
the deceptive appearances of things ? 

Why should it be supposed that because these ideas are 
clear and self-evident, because they form a logically con- 
sistent system, they necessarily constitute a true picture of 
the external world ? The classic rationalism of the seven- 
teenth and beginning of the the eighteenth century does 
not state these problems in a fundamental manner and does 
not solve them. It proceeds from an assurance that " the 
order and connection of ideas are the same as the order and 
connections of things " (Spinoza), but does not establish 
this coincidence in fact. Moreover attempts to establish it 
led rationalists to the idea of a " pre-determined harmony " 
between world and spirit " (Leibnitz), to an " occasion- 
alism " that saw in every act of knowledge a miracle, which 
one could explain only by the constant " assistance of 
divinity." To bridge the gulf between consciousness and 
matter, between the " thinking " mode and the extended, 
was beyond the power of Spinoza who by his teaching of the 
unity of extension and " thought " in the- one substance 
approached incomparably nearer than the others to the 
materialistic solution of the question. 

Basing themselves on the conviction of a primordial 
coincidence of the laws of thought and the laws of being, 
the rationalists saw the task of knowledge thus : To con- 
struct by thinking an object in accordance with the laws 
of thought itself, proceeding each time from clear and 


q8 historical 

evident premises. But the rationalist could base these 
premises only on other ideas, and ultimately on those ideas 
which were, in his opinion, the most universal, the most 
clear, and belonged to every human consciousness. Thus 
the rationalists proceed to the theory of " innate ideas " 
(Descartes), of a priori categories and laws of thought, as 
the final sources and means of scientific knowledge. 

But rationalism, in spite of its efforts, could not get away 
from sense experience. It could neither relegate to sense 
experience the mere function of setting a task to logical 
reason, nor dissolve the whole extent of such experiences 
into logical constructions built up with the aid of a priori 
ideas. And so Leibnitz was compelled to recognize along 
with " truths of reason " also " truths of fact," i.e. truths 
of observation and experience. 

An attempt to overcome the one-sidedness of sensation- 
alism and rationalism was made by Kant. But the ambig- 
uity, the compromising character of Kant's philosophy, 
declared themselves in his solution of the problem of sensa- 
tion and reason. The sensational and the logical moment of 
knowledge do not have, according to Kant's teaching, a 
common basis, there is no transition between the two. The 
sensed, in Kant's opinion, arises in consequence of the 
external action on us of some " thing-in-itself," the logical 
has its basis in our thought, which is sundered from the 
material world. Ideas, according to Kant, do not grow up 
out of the sensed world, but are already given before it by 
the a priori categories of reasoning. These grasp, with dead 
tentacles, the living, multiform, ever-changing material of 
sensations, but themselves remain fixed. Similarly the ques- 
tion of the variety and at the same time the unity of scientific 
knowledge was resolved by Kant not by disclosing the pro- 
cess by which knowledge grew out of experience, or 
describing the slow transition from the one to the other, not 
by showing how these two mutually enrich one another, but 
by setting up the multiplicity of sensation over against the 
unity of rational knowledge in a thoroughly mechanical 



The defect of the Kantian solution of the problem of the 
connection between sense data and logical form was demon- 
strated from the position of dialectical idealism by Hegel. 
Hegel's fundamental reproach of Kant is this, that " the 
latter wished to learn to swim, before getting into the 
water," that is, he solves the problem of scientific knowledge 
outside the process of knowledge itself. 

The new element introduced by Hegel into the solution 
of the problem is this — he proceeds from the dialectical 
movement of thought from a lower grade to a higher and 
on this ground resolves the question of the connection of the 
sensational and the logical, criticizing the one-sidedness 
both of empiricism and rationalism. In his Phenomenology of 
Spirit, Hegel shows the path along which, in his opinion, 
consciousness travels, raising itself from the level of sensa- 
tion to the " realm of pure thought." It is necessary to 
remember that this consciousness is conceived by him in a 
doubly abstract form, separate both from the material 
carrier of consciousness, and also from social man. 

But however brilliant was the new approach to this 
problem made by Hegel, his idealism frustrated his attempt 
to solve it. Idealistic contempt for the material basis of 
sensation had as its result this fact, that instead of the 
logical construction of knowledge actually developing on 
the basis of working upon the ever richer material given by 
sensation, the process of the ascent of consciousness to ever 
higher levels was represented by Hegel as the course of a 
gradual emancipation or " purifying " from the sensed. 

The point at which we may first be said to have reached 
truth is where we have escaped from " sensed concreteness." 

The connection of the sensed and logical thus appeared 
in a significant manner to be unreal, since sensation 
according to Hegel is a necessary accompaniment of only 
the lowest grades of knowledge. 

The attempt to restore the importance of the sensed 
moment of knowledge, which had been pushed into the 
background ever since the days of French materialism, 
belongs to Feuerbach. In a vigorous criticism of the abstract 




Hegelian rationalism he tried to overthrow the position 
that only by the help of thought are we able to grasp the 
connection of the various aspects of the object and make 

" Is it possible I see only leaves and not trees also ? " 
he writes as against Leibnitz. Is it possible there is no 
sensation of identity, of uniqueness, of difference ? Is it 
possible the law of identity is not at the same time a law 
of sensation, is it possible that in the last count this law 
of thought does not depend on the veracity of sensed 
contemplation ? " 

And in his statement of the question Feuerbach is right. 
This is how the matter stands : Sensations are not merely 
raw material, that in an external fashion is in opposition to 
thought (as the German idealists supposed). On the con- 
trary they are the starting point of the logical understanding 
of reality. The connections of the objective world, that are 
finally reflected in logical ideas (identity, opposition, 
causality, necessity, etc.), have already been reached in 
rudimentary form in sensed representations. Thus, we 
observe a known likeness, a difference, we detect sequence 
of one phenomenon after another. We see how day is 
replaced by night, we hear that a blow is accompanied by 
a sound, etc. All this serves as a basis for a mental conclusion 
about law, causality, the mutual dependence of the 
different sides of actuality. 

But Feuerbach, as Marx showed, regards sensation as 
sensed contemplation in which consciousness is merely 
made aware of the existence of external objects and is not 
apprehending them through human activity. But the sensa- 
tion of the subject is not simply an. aggregate of definite 
physiological acts of perception determined by its bodily 
organization, but is always only relatively a direct knowledge 
of the world, since it is the apprehension of an individual in 
■a particular historical situation. 

The direct perception of actuality at a given stage of social 
development, by a member of a given class, is affected by 



the whole of the past experience of society and of that class, 
in other words it is not merely perception but apperception. 

The sensed and the logical, direct perception and apper- 
ception, are not different, independent aspects of social 
knowledge, not distinct stages of it. The difference between 
them is relative. Direct perception becomes knowledge 
permeated by past experience, that is to say apperception ; 
sensed knowledge becomes logical knowledge. 

In its solution of the problem of the sensed and the 
rational in knowledge, dialectical materialism is equally 
removed from mechanistic materialism and from idealism. 
And on this question it wages an irreconcilable struggle on 
two fronts. 

Mechanists attribute the rational to sensation, in effect 
they see in the rational nothing else than a general repre- 
sentation, within whose vague contours the specific features 
of the separate sense-representations are mutually overlaid. 
It is the property of truly rational ideas, that grow up out of 
practice and are confirmed by it, that they represent a work- 
ing-over of the sensed in such a way that in it are reflected 
all the essential connections of the object. Such a property 
can never be understood by the mechanists. 

When the mechanist is confronted by the problem of the 
development of class consciousness, his attribution of the 
rational to sensation forces him to deny a qualitative 
difference between class psychology and class ideology, he 
will assert an elemental development of class theoretical 
consciousness as a passive product, he will, it follows, de- 
grade the role of revolutionary theory and the whole theo- 
retical front of class struggle. 

Nay, more, mechanists like Feuerbach treat human 
sensation as a physiological function of the organism, as 
mere reflexes so to speak, and therefore wipe out any dis- 
tinction between the sensed reflection of actuality in a 
human consciousness and the sensations of an animal. But 
that is just why they cannot see even in the rational side of 
human consciousness, in human theoretical thinking, any 
qualitatively new stage as compared with the germs of 




analysis " and " synthesis " that animals 

That which other mechanists do not openly confess is 
frankly stated by Zeitlin. 

He is assured that " the statement that animals too have 
ideas about matter can be shown to be strictly scientific." 
He seriously analyses the character of animal philosophy 
and comes to the conclusion that " the Berkeleyan and 
empirio-critical understanding of matter as an objectivized 
stable connection of sensations, is very near to the animal 
understanding of matter." 

However, dialectical materialism regards even the 
physical basis of human sensation not as something given 
in a ready-made form with the biological nature of homo 
sapiens, but as a quite special product, arising in distinction 
from merely animal sensations upon the basis of historic 
social practice. 

Quite mistaken also is the assertion of rationalistic 
idealism, which is upheld even by our Menshevist idealists, 
that the development of social knowledge is only a develop- 
ment of rational knowledge and has nothing to do with 
sense experience. The development of social knowledge is 
the development and enrichment of both the sensed or 
direct form of knowledge and the rational, apperceptive 
form of knowledge, at the basis of which lies the develop- 
ment of social practice. The new theoretical approach to 
problems, brought forth by new practice, carries with it a 
new direct perception of actuality, which grows up out of 
the same practice. The sensations as well as the ideas of a 
savage are so low as not to be compared with those of a 
modern civilized man. His thought and sensation alike are 
determined by the extremely restricted range and low level 
of his material practice. 1 

The position of the Marx-Leninist theory of knowledge 
in resolving the problem of the sensational and rational 
moment in knowledge has been shown with extraordinary 

1 Anthropology has even established on a basis of actual measurement 
that savages possess no special acuity of vision or smell. 



clearness in the analysis by Marx and Lenin of the forma- 
tion of the class consciousness of the proletariat. 

In the elemental period of the worker's movement we do 
not yet have on the part of the workers a scientific under- 
standing of actuality. The worker is directly in conflict 
with the individual capitalist. In his daily disputes with his 
employer his experience includes actual details of cruel 
exploitation, the indignation of separate groups of workers, 
their mutual assistance, acts of treachery, etc. All these 
facts are accepted and interpreted by him, not as by a 
" naked physiological individuum," but in large measure 
from the standpoint of the petty-bourgeoisie, whose entrance 
into the ranks of the workers was the historic source of the 
education of the proletariat. At this stage his " direct " 
knowledge appears mainly as nought else than the preju- 
dices of a petty-bourgeois. Many of the facts of capitalist 
exploitation that the worker has observed he is inclined to 
ascribe to the personal qualities of his own employer. The 
employer, in the consciousness of the worker at this period, 
emerges as distinct from the class of capitalists as a whole, 
just as the worker does not realize himself as also part of a 
whole — the proletariat. The different aspects of capitalist 
reality do not yet emerge in the consciousness of the worker 
as manifestations of a class antagonism running through the 
whole of society, but as chance things with no inter- 

To this very stage of the development of proletarian 
consciousness, in which the world of actuality emerges still 
in its " primitive, formless indefiniteness," there corre- 
spond in the development of theory different forms of pre- 
scientific socialism, including also Utopian socialism the 
immediate predecessor of scientific socialism. 

" Such phantastic pictures of future society, painted at 
a time when the proletariat is still in a very undeveloped 
state and has but a phantastic conception of its own 
position, correspond with the first instinctive yearnings of 
that class for a general reconstruction of society " (Marx). 

■UJiilPJ I MJJlB WWWgBBg » , ^P^---' ' AS l M !W ft^ 



However, even at that stage in the consciousness of the 
proletariat there is already something which makes possible 
the transition to a scientific understanding, to a complete, 
connected synthesis of the facts. This is found in the ideas 
derived from and actually reflecting the worker's experience 
of collisions with his employer. It is such ideas that make it 
possible to escape from the limitations of disconnected ex- 
periences, for they reflect the objective relations of concrete 
reality, even though they may do so in a distorted fashion. 
To develop these ideas so that they scientifically explain 
their objective content, the concrete experience of the 
worker must be permeated by the knowledge derived from 
the world-historic practice of mankind by all the cultural 
thought and knowledge of his century. Knowledge of the 
complex capitalist actuality, which includes in itself the 
sum of the development of all the foregoing history of 
mankind, requires generalizations so wide as to be beyond 
the range of separate groups of the proletariat (taking into 
consideration their situation in capitalist society) and far 
beyond the bounds of their immediate circle of vision. Such 
a theoretical expression of the whole experience of the 
workers' movement on the basis of an inspired generaliza- 
tion of the movements and tendencies of world-historical 
development, on the basis of all the positive attainments of 
all human culture, was given by the creators of scientific 
communism. It was they who raised the consciousness of 
the workers to the level of the class scientific theory. Just in 
so far as the workers accept the Marx-Leninist theory, so 
is the " conflict " between the objective content of their 
experience and the form in which that content is under- 
stood entirely removed. Different disconnected experiences, 
which grasp only the surface appearance of things, fortuitous 
external connections between concretely existing facts 
(which make the " given " material stage of consciousness 
" rudimentary " in relation to more rational forms) 
receive a " necessary," stable character. Every different 
fact of class struggle appears now as part of a whole system 
of social relationships. 



and exaggeration of one aspect of human knowledge, the 
fact that it is limited. This fact results firstly from the reflec- 
tion of the unlimited by limited subjects and secondly from 
the dependence of every theory on the limits set by the 
historic development of social practice. The inevitable in- 
completeness of reflection, of every theory of objective truth, 
the possible errors in it, are declared by the relativists to be 
a proof of the complete subjectivity of any scientific theory, 
and any attempt to see in the truths of science the reflection 
of a reality independent of man is held by them to be 
entirely vain. 

It would give a false picture if in our analysis of modern 
relativism we dwelt only on its philosophical errors and 
omitted to point out that it provides a convenient theoretical 
justification of the flight from reality and the class struggle. 
Relativism is also very much in accordance with the world- 
outlook of the bourgeoisie, who are limited by the horizon of 
the present moment and who recoil in dread before any 
attempt to understand the future scientifically. 

Relativism in our time offers certain advantages in the 
struggle with dialectical materialism. It is no longer any 
use to attack it from the standpoint of the older and dis- 
credited metaphysics. Everything that is happening, the 
rapid development of science, the revolutionary changes in 
society, the upheavals brought about by socialist construc- 
tion, all these, show to every worker that reality is in process 
of change, and this is the basis of a materialistic dialectic. 
But relativism enables the bourgeois philosophers to draw 
a different conclusion and to conceal, behind the appear- 
ance of admitting change and development, a denial of the 
objectivity of the material world and a refusal to take part 
in the struggle for its actual and revolutionary change. 

From all this we see that the relativism which seemingly 
contends so zealously with the old metaphysics for the 
admission of movement and change is in essence a variety 
of that same metaphysics. 

Actual change can be understood only when we regard the 
different moments or stages of development as organically 



connected with each other, as a continuation of each 
other, when in our understanding of the connection and 
succession of the moments of movement we proceed from a 
single basis or from one source of movement, but this is 
just what the relativists will not allow. If we argue relatively 
then Marx's doctrine, for instance, has no connection what- 
ever either with English bourgeois political economy, or 
with Utopian socialism, or with German idealistic dialectic, 
or French materialism. But in actuality this is not so. 
Marxism included in itself all that was absolutely true in 
the content of the " three sources," discarding their distor- 
tions and errors, i.e. essentially remaking them from the 
view-point of the new revolutionary class and on the basis 
of the new historic data. A number of modern bourgeois 
physicists have lapsed into idealism because by accepting 
the electronic theory of the construction of matter they 
thought they were compelled to deny the existence of 
atoms. Lenin showed that the electronic theory of the con- 
struction of matter is only a further deepening of our 
representation of the development of physical matter, that 
the old representation also contained a moment of absolute 
truth. From the point of view of relativism science each 
time begins from the beginning, with a complete denial of 
all preceding views. From the dialectical point of view, 
which rests on the actual history of scientific knowledge, 
each new stage of science stands on the shoulders of its 
predecessor and includes in itself all the absolute truth that 
lay in the former. 

The Leninist dictum that the proletariat should master 
the old bourgeois culture is built on the very admission that 
in bourgeois culture, in comparison with the preceding 
formations, there is contained a very rich reflection of 
absolute truth. The proletariat therefore can build its own 
proletarian culture, and advance it beyond the development 
of all human culture so far attained, only by critically 
mastering and working over all that is positive in bourgeois 

culture. . 

The Leninist attitude to proletarian culture and its 



relationship to bourgeois culture is opposed firstly to 
Bogdanov's attempt to abandon bourgeois culture and 
create an entirely new proletarian culture, and secondly to 
Trotsky's acceptance of bourgeois culture as absolute and 
final and his conclusion that socialist culture can be left to 
grow by itself as best it can. 

It is because of this very sequence of the successive grades 
of scientific knowledge that science can evolve. Know- 
ledge advances by the road of contradiction. It is accom- 
panied by errors, by deviations from the direct attainment 
of its object. The external appearance of things for a time 
hides the true content of objects from the eyes of the seeker. 
Thus when first we look at merchant-capitalist society the 
relations between people are hidden by the relations be- 
tween things. But the practical mastery of the material 
world tears away the covering of appearance from the 
objects of investigation, rectifies error by transforming into 
actuality the true objective content of knowledge, and 
purges science of the illusory. Scientific experience, which is 
handed over by one generation to the next, and is each time 
enriched by some new scientific discovery, is all the time 
increasing the possibility of an adequate knowledge of the 
objective world. The experience of industrial practice, the 
traditions of revolution, scientific discoveries, the store of 
ideas, are handed over from one epoch to the next and ever 
more, deeply disclose the infinite possibilities of human 
thought. In the unlimited advance of human history, at 
every new step of its development there is a fuller, richer, 
more diverse revelation of the absolute content of the 
material world, which content, though confined within his- 
torically limited ideas, is nevertheless absolute truth. The 
progressive advance of human thought, the law-governed 
connection of its different stages, were guessed in an in- 
spired manner by Hegel, who criticized both the meta- 
physical view of knowledge (which admits only the eternity 
of truths), and relativism. In his Phenomenology of Spirit he 
characterizes the succession of philosophic systems in the 
following words : 



" The more the ordinary mind takes the opposition 
between true and false to be fixed, the more is it accus- 
tomed to expect either agreement or contradiction with 
a given philosophical system, and only to see the one or 
the other in any explanation about such a system. It does 
not conceive the diversity of philosophical systems as the 
progressive evolution of truth; rather it sees only con- 
tradiction in that variety. The bud disappears when the 
blossom breaks through, and we might say that the 
• former is refuted by the latter ; in the same way when the 
fruit comes, the blossom may be explained to be a false 
form of the plant's existence, for the fruit appears as its 
true nature in place of the blossom. These stages are not 
merely differentiated ; they supplant one another as being 
incompatible with one another. But the ceaseless activity 
of their own inherent nature makes them at the same 
time moments of an organic unity, where they not 
merely do not contradict one another, but where one is 
as necessary as the other; and this equal necessity of all 
moments constitutes from the outset the life of the 
whole." 1 
But, for Hegel, the inevitable development which gives rise 
to these different ideas and successive systems arises from 
a merely logical unfolding, so that they are revealed finally 
as only moments of the " absolute idea." For dialectical 
materialists the unity of relative and absolute truth is basea 
on the limitless development of social-historic practice, m 
which the systematic connections of the material world are 

The dialectical doctrine of the identity of relative and 
absolute truth makes it possible to avoid any subjectivism, 
agnosticism, or scepticism, which arise on the basis of 
either relativism or of a metaphysics which asserts the - 
absoluteness of truth. 

" From the view-point of modern materialism, i.e. 
Marxism," writes Lenin, " the limits of the approach of 
1 Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit, Preface. 



our knowledge to objective absolute truth are conditioned 
historically, but the existence of that truth is unconditioned, 
the fact that we approach to it is unconditioned. The 
contours of the picture are historically conditioned, but 
the fact that this picture depicts an objectively existing 
model is unconditioned. In a word every ideology is 
historically conditioned, but the. fact that to every scientific 
ideology (as distinct, for example, from the religious) there 
corresponds objective truth, absolute nature is unconditioned. You 
will say : this distinction of relative and absolute truth is 
indeterminate. I answer to you ; it is just ' indeterminate ' 
enough to prevent the turning of science into a dogma in 
the bad sense of that word, into something dead, frozen, 
shackled ; but at the same time it is ' determinate ' 
enough to keep aloof in the most resolute and irrevocable 
fashion from fideism 1 and agnosticism, from philosophic 
idealism and from the sophisms of the followers of Hume 
and Kant." 

The conditionality, the relativity of every different step 
of knowledge of actuality (and only in these successive 
stages is absolute truth disclosed) are engendered by the 
limitations that are proper to each given stage of social 
practice and dictate our notions of the object. Wherefore 
thought is not able finally to grasp truth as a whole. The 
inevitable and necessary abstractions of thought may cause 
it to lose touch with actuality. Its limitations will necessarily 
contain the possibility of error. 

The failure to understand that the given historical con- 
ditions will be superseded at a higher stage of historic 
development has brought those who do not master dialectic 
— Kantians and Machists — to a complete denial of objective 
truth. " This problem (i.e. the problem of unknowableness) 
of the ' thing-in-itself,' " writes Engels, " can have a certain 

1 Fideism. If scientific "-truths " are only symbols or are accepted 
only because of their convenience it is clear that they are only true for us 
because we choose to have them so. Socialism itself becomes such a 
" truth," in other words it is a " faith." This is fideism and it is of course 
a form of scepticism and subjectivism. 

■ r 




sense ; we can attain knowledge only in the given conditions 
of our epoch, only jarf as far as these conditions allow. But 
the limitations of the historic conditions, the limitations ol 
world-outlook, the relative scarcity of amassed knowledge 
are historical limitations; they are not based on any funda- 
mental principle rendering knowledge in the very nature oi 
things impossible; they can therefore be to a certain degree 
overcome at a higher level of historic development. 

In just the same way the limitations of the knowledge ol 
actuality of a separate man, with his narrow experience (as 
compared with society as a whole), are extended by experi- 
ence through the connection of the individual with a whole 
class, with all society, through the mastery of that know- 
ledge which makes up the product of all the preceding 
history of human thought. These limitations of social 
knowledge are being overcome today more than at any 
previous stage in the history of mankind. For in the present 
transition period, the period of building a classless society, 
millions are being drawn into conscious socialist construc- 
tion, mass inventiveness is developing and the situation is 
offering unlimited possibilities for the free development . oi 
the creative initiative of the masses on the basis of a scientific 
world-outlook. The new practice-socialist construction- 
overcomes the limited and distorted bourgeois ideology, 
reveals the errors accumulated during the centuries, serves 
as a material basis on which the cultural heritage 01 the old 
society is worked over, and gives a great impetus to the 
further development and concretization of the knowledge 
of objective truth. 

The new historic stage of development of mankind, which 
for the first time in history has made possible a scientihc 
approach not only to the problem of how to control and 
change the physical world but also society itself, has created 
conditions for a most deep and fruitful knowledge of objec- 
tive truth. 

On the basis of this new historic stage we find that even 
the most complete forms of scientific thought, such as the 
doctrine of Marx on capitalist society, Lenin's doctrine oi 


imperialism, or the theories of scientific socialism, are not 
absolute truths, but are capable of further development and 
precision and consequently contain in themselves moments 
of relativism. 

The Leninist conception of the endless extension of the 
knowledge of any object (and consequently of the relativity 
of that knowledge at any given stage) refers not only to the 
knowledge of those objects which evolve in the period of 
man's knowledge of them, but also to those which remain 
relatively immutable during the time of man's whole 
existence or have already in the past finished the whole 
cycle of their development. Our knowledge of the nature 
of chemical elements, of chemical relations, becomes ever 
deeper and completer, in spite of the fact that the nature of 
the earth's chemical elements (with the exception of the 
radio-active) have not changed at all during the period of 
existence of mankind. Our knowledge of the past geological 
epochs is all the time becoming richer, in spite of their 
having finished their cycles hundreds of millions of years 
ago. The scientific knowledge of feudalism became possible 
only after the sound of knightly tournaments, of peasant 
wars and of insurrections in bourgeois towns had ceased to 
echo. And the knowledge of capitalism becomes ever fuller 
and deeper according as capitalism is destroyed under the 
pressure of its own contradictions and the blows of pro- 
letarian revolution which such contradictions bring forth. 
The endlessness of knowledge is based on the limitless 
wealth of the development of the material world and* the 
infinite variety of aspects and connections at every step 
of its development. The higher the level of social practice 
and the more completely all the aspects of actuality are 
grasped by it, so much the deeper is our knowledge of 
actuality, both of that which is the direct object of sensed 
human action, and of that which is brought forward from 
the past and embodied in the present. 

But, as we pointed out above, there exists a fundamental 
distinction in principle between the relativists and the 
■dialectical materialists. For the dialectical materialist the 



knowledge of the basic law-system, If it is confirmed by the 
criterion of historic social practice, enters into tne iron 

inventory of permanent scientific knowledge. 

The development of practice, the enrichment of factual 
material and the development of scientific knowledge which 
is connected with these, can make our knowledge 01 basic 
law more concrete, can even show that that law- system 
which was regarded by us in the past stage as fundamental 
and universal is itself rooted in another deeper law-system 
and is its partial form. But all this in no measure destroys 
the fact that in that law-system we had reflected a little 
bit " of absolute truth. 

When the representatives of the Second International at 
the time of the imperialist war sought on a basis of incom- 
plete' study and " insufficient " discussion of national and 
international tactics to controvert the truth of the Bade* 
pronouncement on the imperialist, predatory character ot 
the coming war, Lenin wrote : 

" Such assertions are sophisms because they confuse a 
many-sided scientific analysis of imperialism, which 
analysis only now begins and which analysis m its essence 
is infinite even as science is infinite, with the essentials of 
socialist tactics against capitalist imperialism, which 
tactics have been pointed out in millions of copies of 
Social-Democratic papers and in the decisions of the 
International." 2 

The same thought on the infinity of knowledge in any 
realm of actuality is expressed by Lenin in many other 
passages in his writings; he stresses it very clearly m his 

i /We Manifesto The resolution on War adopted at the Basle Inter- 

imperialist war oeop le." Nevertheless it was forgotten in 

Sw^eS JS tS5 P natures supported their national Govern- 


2 Lenin, Works, vol. xviu, p. 277. 




discussion of trade unions. Speaking of the demands that 
are put forward by dialectical logic in its study of an object, 
he picks out the most important, the study of an object as 
that which sums up and is permeated by the past, in all its 
relations and all its fullness. He adds " We never shall attain 
this completely, but the demand for allsidedness will save 
us from errors and deadness." We shall never get a reflection 
of an object that will hold good for ever, since nature, 
society and thought are endlessly evolving, but we shall get 
an ever more complete reflection. 

In the development of scientific knowledge a unity of 
absolute and relative truth is realized. On the one hand 
dialectic as a theory of knowledge admits the endlessness 
of the attainment of knowledge, never making absolute 
even its truest reflection, for if it did so it would cease to 
express the dialectic of the material world and thus lose its 
power of "guidance for action"; on the other hand 
dialectic admits the absoluteness, the fullness of the process 
of scientific knowledge as a whole and the presence of 
" little bits " of absolute truth in every scientific proposition, 
because it sees in it a firm basis for the assured advance of 
revolutionary practice. 

The refusal to admit the unity of absolute and relative 
truth leads inevitably to the admission of one of these to the 
exclusion of the other, leads either to the changing of 
theory into dogma, or to a direct denial that theory is a 
reflection of actuality and therefore capable of furnishing a 
scientific basis for the revolutionary changing of actuality. 
These alternatives are different in form but identical in 
essence; they both refuse to allow theory as " guidance for 




! ■ 





iliVERYTHiNG flows, everything changes; there is 
nothing absolutely stagnant, nothing unchangeable in the 
processes of actuality. This was the conclusion, the guiding 
principle of knowledge (already formulated by the ancient 
Greek thinkers) at which bourgeois science of the first half 
of the nineteenth century arrived, influenced as it was by 
the stormy social transformations of the epoch of classical 
bourgeois revolutions. Such a scientific conclusion was 
possible only after many centuries of social practice and 
through the accumulation of a mass of data concerning the 
mutability of natural phenomena. However, one ought not 
to think that all those who acknowledge the mutability of 
phenomena understand it in an objective fashion as 
governed by law, as an evolutionary development. 

Subjective idealists, for whom actuality is nothing else 
than a stream of psychic experiences in the subject (which 
stream constitutes the primitive and therefore uncaused 
" given ') have declared the very question of the objective 
law-governance of such " actuality " to be metaphysical. 
But even among those who have come to regard change as 
a law-governed development we find two different basic 
points of view — the materialistic, which proceeds from the 
development of the objective material world, and the 
idealistic which sees in this development the unfolding of 
" Idea," of spiritual essence. Within the limits of each of 


these basic philosophic camps there exist two more or less 
clearly expressed conceptions of the type and character ol 
law-governed development; to their survey we shall now 

Pr The exponents of the first view see in development a 
simple increase or diminution, a repetition therefore of that 
which already exists. Thus qualitatively different physical 
processes are ascribed by them to different quantitative 
combinations of atoms or electrons; and transformations of 
physical processes one into another are ascribed to a 
quantitative increase, diminution or repetition of those same 
combinations. In the development of organic life in the 
emergence ■ and differentiation of vital forms they see 
only a simple quantitative change in that which had 
already existed in the first living beings that appeared on 

6£ And so they hold that in the capitalism of the beginning 
of the twentieth century and even in that of the post-war 
period there is nothing qualitatively new in comparison 
with its earlier period of development. In modern capitalism 
they say we are dealing only with quantitative developments 
of already existing elements and factors of capitalism— with 
a growth of the army of workers, with an increase in the 
volume of capital investments, with a lessening of the 
number of owners of means of production. 

The exponents of this view are really quite unable to 
offer any solution of the actual problem of development- 
the law-governed emergence of the new out of the old. 
They merely describe the growth, the decrease, the recur- 
rence of this or that aspect of the object. 
' This first conception remains on the surface of pheno- 
mena. It can describe merely the outer appearance ot 
movement but cannot divulge its essence; it is able merely 
to describe the growth or diminution of different elements 
or factors in a process, but cannot explain the internal 
cause of its evolutionary movement, cannot show how and 
why a given process develops. The supporters of this con- 
ception, when they would attempt such an explanation, 



are compelled to seek for some external factor to account 
for the qualitatively new, since this could never be given 
by merely quantitative changes. It is hardly surprising 
that they are frequently driven to the- theory of divine 
intervention. The supporters of this view cannot explain 
how a thing comes to be turned into its own opposite, 
cannot explain " leaps," the disappearance of the " old " 
and the emergence of the " new." Thus from this stand- 
point it is impossible to show why capitalism must inevit- 
ably grow into socialism, or why classes in the U.S.S.R. 
disappear as the result of sharp class struggle. The expon- 
ents of this point of view are supporters of the mechanistic 
conception of development. 

The exponents of the second conception proceed from 
the standpoint that everything develops by means of a 
struggle of opposites, by a division, a dichotomy, of every 
unity into mutually exclusive opposites. Thus capitalism 
develops in virtue of the contradiction between the social 
character of production and the private means of appro- 
priation ; transitional economy develops on the basis of the 
struggle between developing and growing socialism and 
developed, but not yet annihilated, capitalism, and also on 
the basis of the sharpened conflict of classes in this period 
in the course of which classes ultimately disappear. 

The second conception, not remaining on the surface of 
phenomena, expresses the essence of movement as the 
unity of opposites. It demands a penetration into the depth 
of a process, a disclosure of the internal laws which are 
responsible for the development of that process. This 
conception seeks the causes of development not outside 
the process but in its very midst ; it seeks mainly to disclose 
the source of the " self-movement " of the process. To 
understand a process means to disclose its contradictory 
aspects, to establish their mutual relationship, to follow 
up the movement of its contradictions through all its 
stages. This view gives the key to the " leaps " which 
characterize the evolutionary series ; it explains the chang- 
ing of a process into its opposite, the annihilation of the 



" old " and emergence of the " new." Thus only by dis- 
closing the basic contradictions of capitalism and by show- 
ing that the inevitable consequence of such contradictions 
is the destruction of capitalism by proletarian revolution 
do we explain the historic necessity of socialism. This 
second conception is the conception of dialectic matenahsm. 
Inhis celebrated fragment " On Dialectics," Lenin wrote : 

" Two fundamental (or is it the two possible ? or is it 
the two historically observed ?) conceptions of develop- 
ment (evolution) are: development as decrease and 
increase, as repetition; and development as a unity oi 
opposites (the division of the one into mutually exclusive 
opposites and their, reciprocal correlation). 

"The first conception is dead, poor and dry; the 
second is vital. It is only this second conception which 
offers the key to understanding the ' self-movement ol 
everything in existence; it alone offers the key to under- 
standing ' leaps ' to the < interruption of gradual succes- 
sion,' to the ' transformation into the opposite ' to the 
destruction of the old and the appearance of the new." 1 

Throughout the whole course of philosophic history we 
meet with these two conceptions, more or less clearly and 
precisely formulated, or we meet with views that are 
occasionally muddled yet approximate to one of these two 
conceptions of development. 

Thus the Greek philosophers Leucippus and Democntus 
attacking the metaphysical theory of the Eleatic school 
(the school of Parmenides, which held the world to be un- 
changeable and denied the reality of movement) dec ared 
that the world develops according to the principle o 
necessity; that everything in the world is found in eternal 
and endless motion. But their conception of development 
is mechanical. The world, in their opinion, consists oi an 
endless number of atoms, different in form and moving in 
empty space. In the atoms there exist no internal states; 
i Lenin, vol. xiii, p. 323. 


they act on one another only by collisions resulting from 
their mechanical movement. The difference between things 
is explained by the difference in the spatial attributes, the 
number and mutual arrangement of the aggregates of 
atoms which compose them. Emergence is the uniting of 
atoms ; disappearance their falling apart. 

Proceeding from this materialistic conception, the leading 
one of its time, Leucippus and Democritus explained the 
origin and development of the solar system, the movement 
of the human soul, etc. To this point of view, with some 
variations, Epicurus and his followers adhered. 

In the seventeenth century a very similar philosophy was 
established and developed by Pierre Gassendi. His con- 
temporary, ^ the great philosopher and physicist Rene 
Descartes — idealist on the question of the origin of our 
knowledge, materialist in his physical researches— con- 
firmed the idea of the universal connection of all the 
phenomena in nature and explained the development of 
the world purely mechanically, although somewhat differ- 
ently from the Greek Atomists. 

This conception of movement was the basis of most of 
the physics of that period and finds expression in the works 
of the great French materialists. The mechanistic attitude 
was not only dominant in material science but profoundly 
influenced the theories concerning the development of 
human society. A succession of bourgeois philosophers 
explained all social phenomena as due to the simple inter- 
actions of individuals seeking their self-preservation. But 
these philosophers failed to observe the class struggle and 
the contradictions in society; they were, therefore, quite 
unable to reveal the actual laws of social development. 

In more recent times, under the influence of ever intensi- 
fying class contradictions, there has appeared a mechanistic 
theory which sought to explain social development by the 
antagonism of forces directed one against the other and 
their eventual equilibrium. The direction of the develop- 
ment of a social phenomenon is, it is said, determined at 
any particular moment by the quantitative predominance 


of the force which determines that Action Thus accord- 
in, to Herbert Spencer, "tyranny and freedom are 
forces independent of each other, which strive to balance 
each other By the quantitative predominance of freeaom 
or of tyranny the resultant of this antagonism is determined. 
We also find this principle of development m Duhnng, who 
attacked the dialectic of Marx and Engels, and after 
Duhring came Bogdanov who constructed a complete 
philosophy which proposed to explain every phenomenon 
Tnatu^society and thought by the principle of equih- 

br TWs conception was afterwards borrowed from Bogdanov 
by Bukhari/who saw the cause of the development of 
social structures not in their internal contradictions but 
inTe relationship of the system with the environment, of 

sneietv with nature. 

The mechanistic theory- of development permeate 
reformist sociology, which holds that the ^^^ 
tive growth of monopoly and of finance-capital signmes 
begging of capitalism into socialism, that the ample 
™th of bourgeois democracy is an ever greater winning 
ff power by the working class, etc. These philosophers 
have thrown aside the theory of movement by me ans of 
contradictions as too revolutionary. A ™^™^J™[ 
ciple of development also penetrates the views of Trotsky 
ism for instance its acceptance of the superficial view that 
capitalism was planted in Russia by the West a view which 
iZres the development of capitalism that proceeded 
among us on the bads of the break-up of the peasant com- 
2. The Trotskyist theory of the impossibility of a 
SSt victory in one country alone proceeds from is 
Snoring of the unevenness of the development of caprtal- 
sm Tnd of the internal laws of development of the 
U S.SR. which have by the operation of new internal 
forces made it possible to resolve those contradictions of the 
proletariat and peasantry that obstruct the building of 
SdaSm This theory holds that the external contradic- 
tions Tcapitahsm and the U.S.S.R. are the determining 



factor in our development, and that the course of develop- 
ment of the environment (capitalism) determines the course 
of development of the system, i.e. the U.S.S.R. 

Not only the mechanistic but also the dialectical con- 
ception of development is met in the course of philosophic 
history. "Movement itself is a contradiction," the 
Eleatics pointed out, and that is the very reason why 
they, as metaphysicians, denied the objectivity of move- 
ment. The greatest of them, Zeno, brought together a 
number of examples to refute the objectivity of movement. 
The basis of his proof is that movement contains within 
itself a contradiction and is therefore untrue, since from 
the viewpoint of the Eleatics a thing is true only if it is at 
one with itself, is identical with itself, unalterable. 

The Greek philosopher Heraclitus declared : "All 
things flow, all changes. It is impossible to enter twice into 
one and the same stream." Everything is found in eternal 
flux, at one moment in the process of stabilization, in the 
next of passing away. He affirmed that everything is found 
in development by virtue of the strife of opposites. 
^ In the new philosophy which grew up along with the 
rise of the bourgeoisie the idea of development by means of 
contradiction was revived by Kant and Hegel. 

In opposition to the view of Newton, who held that the 
movement of the solar system, once it had been brought 
into existence as a result of the first divine impulse, remains 
unchanged, and that the planets preserve their primeval 
relative distances and distribution, Kant, in the early 
phase of his development, propounded a theory of the. 
origin of the solar system from a revolving nebula without 
the intervention of God. He affirmed that out of the 
primeval nebula, as a result of the struggle arising from the 
repulsion and attraction of its components, was formed a 
system of planets, including our earth, and he predicted 
an inevitable collapse of that system in the distant future. 
Kant's notion of development still lay as a whole within 
the bounds of a mechanistic world-outlook, for we see 
that attraction and repulsion were considered by him as 


opposing mechanical forces belonging to matter It was 
only later in his more fundamental philosophical works 
thai the critical Kant approached to a dialectical under- 
standing of contradiction, which, however he now Wed 
by the bounds of reason, ruling out any ^ * ?°£"°? 
tion in connection with the objective world of thmgs m 

th Se d ideaHst system which most clearly and folly ^ works 
out the idea of development by means of the state ot 
^podtes was that of He'gel, and this part of his philosophy 
is his greatest contribution to human thought. He wrote. 

" Identity is the definition only of a simple immediate, 
dead being, but contradiction is the root of all ^m^nt 
and vitality/and only in so far as a thing has mi ell 
contradiction does it move, does it possess an impulse 

and activity. . f „. 

« Contradiction is not simply the negation of nor- 
mality but is the principle of every self-movement, of that 
which indeed is nothing else than the expression of 

contradictions. , . ■> - 

"All things are contradictory m themselves-this 
proposition expresses the truth and essence of thmgs 
better than any other." 

Hegel, in opposition to Kant, held that it is impossible 
to^tf ibute contradiction to the subject alone. He insisted 
on the necessity of disclosing the cont «^«^ 
process of actuality (which was understood by him ^ideahs 
tically) because in the strife of opposites he saw the root, 
the basis of every self-movement. - 

But having set up this basic law of ^. de ^P™\dd 
idealist Hegel inevitably distorted and limited it. He held 
that the movement of the objective world is a form ot 
movement of absolute spirit, and subordinated the _ develop- 
ment of objective processes to a system of categories made 
up in his own head. Thus at every step he betrayed the > law 
he had himself set up. Being a bourgeois idealist and a 



German philistine he declared that in the Idea, i.e. in the 
highest stage of development, contradictions are reconciled, 
a stoppage of development takes place. After depicting the 
movement of society as the development of the World 
Spirit through contradictions, he declared that in the 
Prussian monarchy— the highest incarnation of the State 
idea — social contradictions were reconciled. Thus Hegel 
subordinated the revolutionary law of a struggle of 
opposites to the bourgeois theory of their reconciliation. 
Modern neo-Hegelians like Bradley, and Gentile, the 
philosopher of Fascism, act as did the reactionaries of 
Hegel's day; they seize on this reactionary side of the 
Hegelian philosophy and develop a theory of reconcilia- 
tion of opposites. Marx and Engels, on the contrary, 
took from Hegel this same revolutionary side, reworked 
it critically and developed the law of the unity and conflict 
of opposites. 
Lenin wrote: 

" Consider such expressions as ' movement and self- 
movement,' meaning spontaneous, internally necessary 
movement, ' change,' ' movement and vitality,' ' the 
principle of every self-movement,' ' movement and 
action,' in contrast to ' dead existence ' — and who will 
believe that these represent the very core of Hegel's 
frozen absolutism, as it has been called. It is necessary 
to disclose this essence, to understand it, to save it, 
to remove its shell, to cleanse it — and that is what Marx 
and Engels did." 

Marx and Engels, beingmaterialist-communists and there- 
fore free from the half-and-half policy of Hegel, were the 
first to show the essentially revolutionary character of this 
law. In a large number of their works — Capital, Anti-Diihring, 
The Poverty of Philosophy, Ludwig Feuerbach, Dialectic of Nature 
— as well as in a number of their letters, they indicated the 
theoretical and practical importance of this law as a 
universal law of the development of nature, . society and 


thought They were the first logically, dispassionately and 
iStively to apply it to the analysis of all those processes 
afd phenomeri which they undertook to investigate 
Whether it was the analysis of the basic laws of developmen 
rf social structures, the analysis of capitalism, the different 
nisTr c episodes of class struggle, the politics and tactics of 
Ae workers' movement, or the development of technique 
Statural science. They did not constrict the investiga- 
tion of concrete processes by forcing it to conform 
rTady-made abstract schemes, they did not subordinate it to 
an artificial, laboured movement of categories, ^as did 

of Hegelianism, but they disclosed the internal contra, 
d ction of processes and traced out their movement and 
nrSual connection, their transitions one to another m all 
their concrete and unique characteristics. 

In their enquiries Marx and Engels did not confinethem- 
selves to pointing to the presence of all the contradictions in 
tS or that process as though they were of equal impor- 
tance but singled out the essential contradiction upon 
whkh tL others depended. Marx applied this law of the 
S* and conflict of opposite, with remarkable complete- 
nesslnd thoroughness in his Cafital, which rema^fc 
riav the unsurpassed model of the application of dialectical 
IJteriahsm to the investigation of the complex process of 
Seal development. Marx showed in CapUal&e movement 
of Se contradictions of capitalism fiom its rise to its decay 
and established the necessity of its final downfall. He showed 
how the contradictions of capitalism are intensified and 
how all the conditions and possibility of their revolutionary 
. ^tioli are being prepared. He was able ^ sh°w J-t how 
it was possible to prepare practically for the solution of 
those contradictions which are the motive force of ^social 
development. Thus he became the founder of the strategy 
and tactics of the workers' party. His analysis showed i wtfh 
great force that the unity of capitalism was relative and 
that the struggle of opposites within it was absolutely 



In contrast to the reformist theoreticians who discarded 
Marxian dialectic as an " unnecessary survival," Lenin 
remained faithful to it, made it concrete, developed and 
exalted it to a higher level. His service in working out and 
further developing the law of opposites was very great. In 
the struggle with the liberals, the reformists, the Social 
Revolutionary Party 1 and dissentients within the party, he 
applied it in just as masterly a fashion as Marx to the inves- 
tigation of whatever phenomena he chose to consider. He 
investigated the further development of the contradictions 
of capitalism in the epoch of imperialism, he uncovered the 
basic contradictions and transitions of the contradictory 
forces at different stages of the class struggle and bril- 
liantly applied this basic law of dialectic to the policy and 
tactics of the party. In his struggle with the Kantians, with 
the Machists, with bourgeois reactionary philosophy he 
'showed in masterly manner the bi-polar nature of thought, 
the fact that it is at one and the same time relative and 
absolute. By developing Marxism both on the basis of the 
experience of the class struggle in the epoch of imperialism 
(from which he drew important conclusions) and on the 
basis of new developments in science since the time of 
Engels, he gave a most brilliant philosophic expression to 
the law of opposites as the basic law of development. 

To sum up, the two fundamental conceptions of develop- 
ment are the mechanistic, which regards development as a 
simple increase, diminution and repetition, and the dia- 
lectic, which sees in development the division of a unitary 
process, the unity and conflict of opposites. 

In the same year, 19 14, that Lenin was writing his notes 
" On Dialectic," J. V. Plekhanov in his work From Idealism 
to Materialism sought to formulate his own understanding of 
the two 'conceptions of development. He wrote : 

" Hegel's view-point was the view-point of develop- 
ment. But one can understand development in different 

1 Social Revolutionary. This party desired an agrarian revolution to the 
advantage of the peasants who were their chief support. They were 
extreme petty bourgeois democrats and often resorted to terrorism. 


ways. Even nowadays we still meet naturalists who repeat 
TenLtiously, < Nature does not make leaps.' Sociologists 
too quite often repeat the same thing, < Socia develop- 
ments accomplished by means of slow, gradual changes 
Hegel affirmed, on the contrary, that just as m nature 
so too in history leaps are unavoidable. < Changes of being 
he says, < consist not only in the transition of one quantity 
to another quantity, but also in the transition of quahty 
into quantity, and the reverse process-every one of the 
talons of the latter type forms a break in gradualn 
and gives to the phenomenon an entirely new character 
^alftatively different from the former.' Development 
becomes comprehensible only when we consider gradual 
chLes as a process by which a leap (or leaps maybe) is 
prepared and evoked. Whoever wishes to explain the 
emergence of a given phenomenon merely by slow 
cW s must in fact unconsciously suppose that U has' 
if existed but remained unnoticed because * dmnsms 
are to" minute. But in such an < explanation the n°tion of 
emergence is replaced by the notion of growth, of a simple 
change of magnitude, i.e. the very thing requiring ex- 
planation is arbitrarily removed." 

Plekhanov has correctly formulated the : essence : of the 
me chanistic conception of development, ^J**^ 
succeed in showing the dialectical essence. He speaks at 
leapsof the breaking of continuity, of the transition of 
qStyinto quality.lut he has not seized the mam ^ 
the essential thing in the conception of development^ He 
has not understood the duality which is found withm the 
u3ty n other words the unity and conflict of opposite, 
fundamental conception which alone gives -thekey£ 
the understanding of leaps in evolution of breaks m grad 
ualness, of the transition of quantity into quality m fact, 
of the whole developmental process in nature and history. 





All processes that originate in nature and society 
are found in uninterrupted mutual action. In one way or 
another they are mutually linked up and influence each 
other. But in order to get to understand any one of them, 
to investigate the course of its development, to establish the 
character of its mutual action with other processes, it is no 
use to proceed only from the action of external forces on a 
given phenomenon, as do the mechanists, but it is necessary 
to lay bare its internal contradictions. 

The fact that all phenomena in the world contain within 
themselves a number of contradictory aspects and properties 
was noticed long ago and is still noticed every day and 
reflected in people's thoughts and notions. But these 
opposing aspects were and are reflected in different ways. 
The eclectics, who see the opposing aspects of some processs 
but do not know how to expose their internal connection 
and mutual relationships, grasp at now one, now another of 
its opposing factors, according to their point of view or 
to the changing situation, and whatever aspect they select 
they advance as the general characteristic of the whole. 

Another group of philosophers holds that contradictions 
belong only to the surface of processes, to their appearance ; 
that there are none within the essence of things. Therefore 
from their point of view a true notion cannot contain a 
contradiction within itself. Thus, as we saw, thought the 
Eleatics, Parmenides and Zeno ; thus think metaphysicians 



of all times. Certain liberal thinkersof the '90 s for example, 
could not deny a number of contradictions in the economic 
order which existed in the Russian countryside and were 
expressed in the progressive land-deprivation of part of _the 
peasantry, in seasonal occupations, in the contradictions 
between the dealer and the home craftsman, etc. But 
these contradictions were regarded by them, not as the 
expression of the development of peasant economy along tne 
capitalist path, but as phenomena that were external and 
fortuitous with regard to the countryside which had 
retained its primordial communal character all the time. 

It is only the materialist-dialectician who does not have 
to oive confusing answers when called on to explain how it 
is possible to make contradictory assertions about the same 
thing, who does not have to explain the contradictions of a 
process as lying merely on the surface of phenomena or 
existing merely in our thought. Only dialectical material- 
ism proceeds from the objective contradictions of actuality, 
from the internal struggle of the opposing aspects of a 
process, proceeds as it were from the law of the change 
and development of actuality itself. 
Lenin wrote : 

" The division of the one and the knowledge of its 
contradictoryparts ... is the essence (one of the essentia 
aspects of being, its fundamental, if not ^fundamental 
characteristic^ of dialectic. This is exactly how Hegel 

puts the question. „ ' ,, 

« The condition for understanding all world processes 
as in ' self-movement,' in spontaneous development con- 
ceived in its vital and living forms-is the knowledge of 
the unity of their opposites. Development is m fact the 
conflict of opposites." 

Even in a simple mechanical impulse we find this 
contradiction in an elementary primitive form, in the form 
of action and-counter-action, but in this the source of self- 
movement is not yet revealed because mechanics seeks the 


cause of movement outside the object in motion. Mechanical 
movement is always only one aspect, one external form of 
the self-movement of concrete phenomena. 

The class struggle in the history of society, the contra- 
diction between productive forces and the relations of 
production show clearly enough the correctness of this law 
in relation to the development of social structures. It is the 
same in natural processes also. 

Modern science no longer regards the atom as an un- 
alterable, self-identical " brick of the universe," a final 
limit to the division of physical matter. It has shown the 
atom to be a unity of centres of positive and negative 
electricity, which by their mutual penetration determine 
the physical and chemical properties of the atom. Nay, 
more, physicists and chemists have closely and critically ex- 
amined the basis of the historic view of the nature of 
chemical elements, which a few decades ago appeared to 
be absolutely fixed. They have been able to show that their 
nature is not fixed. Chemical elements develop and the 
internal cause of their development is the movement of 
the internal contradiction of their atoms. 

The dialectical character of the processes of nature 
emerges with special clarity in regard to the phenomena of 
life. Life and death, emergence and annihilation, assimila- 
tion and dissimilation (accretion and discharge of matter 
and of energy) are found to be side by side and to interpene- 
trate each other both in the life of organisms and in the life 
of every component cell. 

The contradictory unity of variability and heredity dis- 
played by the organism in the struggle for existence is the 
mainspring of organic evolution. 

In the history of technique also we deal with development 
on the 'basis of the internal contradictions found in any 
given social-economic structure, contradictions which 
determine the course of its self-development. Thus in the 
development of machinery we meet with the emergence of 
contradictions between the machine and the material of 
which it is made and the solution of these contradictions by 



the construction of machines out of more suitable materials 
—out of metal instead of wood— (originally machines were 
wooden), out of high quality steels, out of hard alloys, out 
of plastic material which can be easily moulded, etc., by 
the transition to new types of machines, by increasing the 
power of the old, etc. We have also a continual contradic- 
tion between the motive machine that provides the power, 
the transmissive mechanism and the machine that does the 
work at the " tool " end of the process. 

We have contradictions between the technical bases of 
the different productive branches. Thus when the perfec- 
tion of the loom in England at the end of the eighteenth 
century revealed and intensified the backwardness of spin- 
ning, the contradiction was solved by the appearance of 
the spinning machine, which in its turn made weaving 
backward; this new contradiction led to the appearance of 
Gartwright's loom. The contradiction between the appear-^ 
ance of the new machines and the handcraft methods of 
their production brought forth the appearance and develop- 
ment of a new branch of production, machine-construction. 
These technical revolutions in industry led in turn to a con- 
tradiction with the backward transport system (sailing 
ships and horse wagons) and that evoked the railway and 
the steamship. 

Contradictions of such a type exist all the time. An inven- 
tion which arises as the result of the accumulation of pre- 
ceding technical and social development is grafted on to 
the older technique when conditions are favourable, and 
leads to new contradictions, to be resolved by new inven- 
tions. It is in this way that technical progress is achieved. 

The unity of opposites, the division of unity is the 
universal law of the development of our thinking. Lenin 
wrote : 

" Knowledge is the eternal endless approximation of 
thought to the object. The reflection of nature in man's 
thought must not be understood in a 'dead manner 5 
' abstractly,' without movement, without contradiction, 


but as an eternal process of movement, as the emergence 
of contradictions and their resolution." 

Our knowledge of the objective world, as we have said 
already, moves between the poles of relative and absolute 
truth. At every stage of social development our knowledge 
is relative, because it is conditioned by the historic degree of 
the development of practice. But we move on the whole 
towards absolute truth, reflecting at every stage of our 
relative knowledge more and more of the aspects of absolute 

Our ideas, in proportion to the development of human 
knowledge and its closer approximation to reality, become 
more and more flexible, and therefore more and more 
adequate to reflect the universal connection, the division of 
unity, the conflict of opposites in objective actuality. 

Each one of the general categories of materialistic 
dialectic which reflect the degrees of man's knowledge of 
the laws of development of actuality presupposes its own 
opposite; thus, quality is unthinkable without quantity, 
content without form, possibility without actuality. Such 
categories are more and more seen to embody the principle 
of the unity of opposites. 

Lenin in his fragment " On Dialectic " emphasizes the 
fundamental importance of the division of unity as follows : 

"This aspect of dialectics customarily received very 
little attention (e.g. by Plekhanov) : the identity of op- 
posites is taken as the sum-total of examples, for example 
' a seed,' and in Engels's, for example, ' primitive com- 
munism.' But this is in the interest of popularization and 
not as the law of knowledge (and as the law of the objective 


The " seed " is taken as an example of development 
through contradictions, for the seed dies that a new plant 
may live, then the plant dies that the new seed may live. 
" Primitive Communism," too, is only able, to develop into 



civilization through the appearance within it of inequalities 
which are at one and the same time a forward step and a 
retrogression. 1 

But while Engels gave these examples in order to make 
the law of opposites more easily understood, Plekhanov 
used them because he did not understand the unity and 
conflict of opposites and could only deal with instances 
without proceeding to explain the underlying law itself. 

In one of his works Plekhanov wrote : 

" Now here is a point we must examine. We already 
know, that Uberweg was right—and in what measure he 
was rieht, when he demanded from logically thinking 
people" a definite answer to the definite question as to 
whether a given object possessed a given property. But 
imagine that we are dealing not with a simple object, 
but a complex one, which unites in itself directly opposite 
phenomena and therefore combines in itself directly 
opposite properties. Does Uberweg's demand apply to 
pronouncements on such an object ? No, Uberweg himself 
—although he opposes the Hegelian dialectic— finds that 
here it is necessary to make use of a new principle, in fact 
the principle of the combination of opposites. 

" One more point has to be considered. We know already 
that Uberweg was right, and we know how right he was, 
in demanding that those who think should think logically, 
and in demanding definite answers to definite questions 
as to whether this or that characteristic attaches to this 
or that object. Now, however, let us suppose that we have 
to do with an object which is not simple but complex and 
has diametrically conflicting properties. Can the judg- 
ment demanded by Uberweg be applied to such an 
object ? No, Uberweg himself, just as strenuously opposed 
as Trendelenburg to the Hegelian dialectic, considers 
that in this case we must judge in accordance with 
another rule, known in logic under the name of 
principium coincident^ oppositorum (the principle of the 
1 See a long note by Lenin in vol. xiii. of his Works, p. 322. 


coincidence of opposites). Well now, the immense 
majority of the phenomena with which natural science 
and sociological science have to do come within the 
category of such objects. The simplest globule of proto- 
plasm, the life of a society in the very earliest phase of 
evolution — one and the other exhibit diametrically con- 
flicting properties. Manifestly, then, we must reserve for 
the dialectical method a very large place in natural 
science and in sociology. Since investigators have begun 
to do this, these sciences have advanced with rapid 
strides." 1 

Plekhanov admits the presence of a diversity of opposite 
aspects or properties and of their mutual interaction in 
objects and processes. He knows that it is impossible to 
understand their mutual connection, this combination of 
opposites, on the basis of formal logic ; it requires the appli- 
cation of dialectical logic. But here he remains, for he does 
not understand that " the combination of opposites " in 
processes is not only a unity but also a conflict of opposites, 
that the conflict of indissolubly connected " mutually 
penetrating " opposites determines the movement, is the 
basic law of development. 

Plekhanov not only failed to recognize the problem of 
development by means of contradiction as the problem of 
development by means of division of unity but gave very 
little attention to the problem of contradiction itself. 

He spoke of dialectic only in very general terms as of a 
theory of eternal development by means of emergence and 
annihilation. Lenin regarded the theory of the unity and 
conflict of opposites as the most important aspect of 
dialectic, but Plekhanov was more concerned with the 
transitoriness of forms. Thus in expounding Hegel, he said : 

" The basis, the chief distinguishing feature of dialectic 
is indicated by Hegel as an ' eternal change of forms, an 
eternal rejection of each form in turn, which is first 

1 Plekhanov, Fundamental Problems of Marxism, p. 120. 



brought into existence- by a particular content or tend- 
ency and subsequently supplanted by another in conse- 
quence of the further development of that same content." 

Indisputably, the dialectic of content and form comprises 
one of the essential elements of dialectic. But to indicate 
this alone is not enough. It is necessary to explain why a 
given content leads to the necessity of replacing a given 
form with another determined form. And this is only to 
be explained by the contradiction of form and content, by 
their conflict, which is only one of the concrete ways of 
showing the basic law of dialectic— the law of unity and 
conflict of opposites. That is what Plekhanov did not 
understand. Plekhanov understands the law of contradic- 
tion only as the statement of the transition of a form into its 
own individual opposite. 

Ignorance of this law led him to declare that one should 
study, on a basis of formal logic, the moments of com- 
parative stability in any given process. 

In the foreword to the second edition ofLudwig Feuerbach, 
Plekhanov directly states that the movement of matter is 
the basis of all natural phenomena, and that movement is a 
contradiction. But he illustrates this contradiction only by 
the example of a mechanical movement, the shifting of a 

point. . 

It is true that even a simple movement, the mechanical 
shifting of a point in space, is contradictory. A moving point 
is simultaneously found and not found in a given spot. 
Here already we have the unity of opposites, but in its 
simplest and most primitive form. Mechanical movement 
originating in consequence of an impulse or impact, i.e. 
in consequence of external causes, is derived from some 
other higher form of movement and is therefore quite inade- 
quate as an illustration of movement in general, as for 
instance— physical, chemical, biological and social move- 
ment. The mechanical is contained. in each one of these in 
a certain degree, but the higher and more complex the 
form of the movement of matter, the smaller is the role that 


T 53 

the mechanical plays. So it is impossible to reduce the 
contradictions of all these forms of movement to that of 
mechanical movement. 

To stop short with this type of contradiction, as Ple- 
khanov does, is to limit the significance of the law of opposites 
and render it incapable of explaining " self-movement " 
since it does not disclose the basic contradictions in the 
higher types. 

Nay, more, he speaks out directly against the under- 
standing of movement by way of division of unity. In his 
work On the Development of the Monist View of History, he 
wrote : " Whoever wished to penetrate into the essence of 
the dialectical process and began by expounding the 
doctrine of the internal opposition found within each suc- 
cessive phenomenon in the course of any evolutionary 
series, would be approaching the task from the wrong end." 

To understand a process, to disclose the source of its self- 
movement, it is not enough to establish the diversity of the 
contradictions, the conflict of the many opposing aspects — 
it is necessary to disclose in this diversity the basic funda- 
mental contradictions which define the movement of the 

In opposition to the metaphysics of bourgeois ideology, 
which at the best limited itself to a statement of the mutual 
action of social " factors," Marx, Engels and Lenin demanded 
the disclosure of the basic contradiction of every social 
structure, which consists in the contradiction between those 
productive forces and the productive relations which are 
found together in that particular social structure. 

This basic contradiction determines all the other contra- 
dictions of the given social form and the course of the latter's 
development. That is the reason why the classical exponents 
of Marxism regarded the whole mass of contradictions found 
in social development from the standpoint of this basic 

Bourgeois political economy, before and after Marx, took 
its stand on the eternity of bourgeois relations and could 
not disclose the actual contradictions of capitalism, which 


are the law of its emergence, development and decay. Even 
the foremost intellects of bourgeois economic science — 
Adam Smith and Ricardo, who taught that value is the 
substantiated human labour in the article of sale and that 
the amount of value is determined by the amount of work- 
ing expenses, that profit and ground rent are the unpaid 
work of the labourer— even they could not disclose the basic 
laws of the development of the social formation they were 
considering, because they had not marked its contradic- 
tions. These forerunners of classical bourgeois political 
economy and their successors also quite failed to penetrate 
deeper than the surface of the phenomena of distorted 
capitalist practice. Their "methodology" amounted to 

this they sought to turn one of the phenomena of capitalist 

economy, torn from its connection with the rest, into a 
principle which could characterize the whole of capitalism - 
Thus some of them found " the law of supply and demand " 
to be this principle, others claimed to find it in " the costs 
of production," a third group in " the cost to the con- 
sumer," etc. And so they were unable to give any general 
picture of the development of capitalism or to disclose its 
governing laws. Marx opposed the metaphysics of bour- 
geois political economy with his dialectic of capitalist 
actuality itself; he wrote: " Only by setting in place of 
opposing dogmas, opposing facts and the real contradictions 
which make up their concealed basis, is it possible to 
convert political economy into a positive science." 

Marx disclosed the basic contradictions of the bourgeois 
means of production and in this way explained the law of 
its development. He showed that the contradiction between 
capitalist productive forces and the relations of production 
determines the development of capitalism. 

This contradiction, which emerges in the form of the 
contradiction between the social character of production 
and the private means of appropriation, " is also that basic 
contradiction which includes in itself all those contradic- 
tions which surround modern society and are specially 
evident in heavy industry" (Engels). 



This basic contradiction finds its expression and develop- 
ment in a number of other contradictions of capitalism. 
We will mention some of them. 

i. The contradiction between the effective organiza- 
tion of production in each separate factory and the 
anarchy in the general course of social production. 

2. The perfection of machines and the widening of 
production as the compulsory law for each capitalist, 
on one side ; the growth of a reserve army of industry, 
and periodically repeating crises, on the other side. 
Here the means of production rebels against the capitalist 
relations of production. 

3. " For capitalism as a whole there is the peculiarity 
of the difference between property in capital and the 
application of capital to production, that is to say be- 
tween finance capital and industrial or productive 
capital; the difference between the rentier who lives 
only by income from money capital and the entrepreneur 
together with all those people who take an immediate 
part in the utilization of their capital " (Lenin). 

This last difference in which the social character of pro- 
duction distorted by capitalist relations finds its expression 
is clearly displayed in the joint-stock companies, in which 
for the mass of shareholders there remain only the func- 
tions of the rentier and the formal right of property in the 
undertaking, whereas the actual allocating of the accumu- 
lated profits, the direction of production and the income 
from the undertaking remain in the hands of a small group 
of " financial supermen " (Lenin). 

Analysing the basic contradictions of capitalism, Marx 
showed that they lead inevitably to the necessity of revolu- 
tion and to proletarian dictatorship. 

Lenin traced the transformation of capitalism into the 
last stage of its development— into imperialism, which in 
a new form, in the form of monopoly, develops the basic 
contradictions of the capitalist system, leading them to the 

' I 

- : v lit 1 

<m m"B»ms!Lja:m 


final crises of capitalism. By proceeding from analysis of 
the basic contradictions of monopoly capitalism and the 
whole sum of contradictions that grow up on their basis, 
by disclosing the inequality of the development of imperi- 
alism in different countries, Lenin showed scientifically the 
possibility of breaking the imperialist chain at its weakest 
link, the possibility of a victory of revolution, of a victory of 
socialism, in a single country. 

Lenin and Stalin in their works have shown the basic, 
leading contradiction of the socialist transitional economy; 
it is the struggle of socialism with the remnants of capitalism. 

The basic contradiction of our transitional economy was 
formulated by Lenin as follows: 

" The economy of Russia in the epoch of proletarian 
dictatorship presents itself as the conflict between the 
first forms of the communistic unified large-scale labour- 
State and small-scale commodity production accompanied 
by the capitalism that is being preserved along with it 
and is always being reborn on its basis." 

This concentrated Leninist formula contains the charac- 
teristic of the following three aspects of the contradiction 
of transitional economy. 

i. The contradiction of large-scale socialist industry with the 
market-capitalist tendencies of small-scale commodity economy. 

This contradiction was and is being resolved, not by the 
brutal pressure of the proletariat on the peasantry, as our 
enemies depict it, but in a form of union of the proletariat 
with the peasantry under the guidance of the proletariat, 
which union has as its task the abolition of classes and is 
directed both against the capitalist tendencies of the 
peasantry itself, and against those capitalist agents who 
ceaselessly try to play on those tendencies in order to break 
up this union from within. 

This union is made actual firstly by means of the identifica- 
tion of the interests of the small producer with the interests 
of socialism, with the aims of developing socialist industry, 


J 57 

and secondly by means of the socialist reconstruction of 
peasant economy in the form of all-round collectivization, 
which signifies the liquidation of that base for the continual 
rebirth of capitalism to which Lenin alluded. 

2. The antagonism between the interests of the proletariat, the 
owners of socialistic industry, and the capitalistic elements—elements 
which have been in part already expropriated since the October 
Revolution and put to rout in the civil war, but are not yet finally 
liquidated, and in part are being born anew on the basis ofJV.E.P. 1 
on the basis of individualist, small-scale, peasant economy. 

This contradiction was resolved by the proletariat on the 
lines of the general policy of the party which was the 
industrialization of the country and the socialist recasting 
of peasant economy; different methods were required at 
different stages of the revolution— ranging from the policy 
of curtailing and expelling the capitalist elements to the 
liquidation of the kulaks as a class and the establishment 
of all-round collectivization. 

The basic contradictions of the transitional period, which 
have been indicated by Lenin, find their expression in a 
number of its other contradictions. Such for example is the 
contradiction between our advanced socialist relations and 
the backward technique which is the heritage of Russian 
capitalism ; this contradiction will be resolved by a vigorous 
development of socialist industry. 

Another such contradiction is the contradiction between 
the socialist organization of production and petty bourgeois 
and bourgeois habits and traditions relating to production 
and work, which once again are the workers' heritage from 
the past; this contradiction will be resolved by the mass 
recasting of the people under the leadership of the Party, 
by the fostering of socialist discipline, by the developing of 
new socialist forms of work. 

1 N.E.P. The New Economic Policy was adopted under the leadership 
of Lenin at the Tenth Congress of the Communist Party in 192 1. It 
allowed considerable scope for private trading but retained a State 
monopoly of foreign trade, transport, heavy industry and much light 
industry^ It allowed the rapid. growth of capitalist elements in the 
countryside. It was in Lenin's own words, " Capitalism plus socialism." 


3. We will point finally to the contradiction between the still 
limited output of socialist industry and agriculture and the growing 
demands of the workers. 

This contradiction is being resolved by the increasing 
productivity of labour in industry and agriculture, by 
the vigorous tempo of the industrialization of the land, 
by the development of light industry,' by the mobiliza- 
tion of the internal resources of heavy industry for pro- 
duction of widely demanded goods, by the struggle for 
the organized economic strengthening of the collective 
farms and finally by the developing of collective farm 

In disclosing the above-mentioned basic contradiction of 
the transitional economy of the U.S.S.R., Lenin and Stalin 
showed that the proletariat of the Soviet Union under the 
leadership of the Communist Party, by having set up its 
dictatorship, by possessing large-scale industry, transport 
and colossal resources of natural wealth, by introducing a 
monopoly of external trade, by establishing a union with 
the middle peasantry, possesses everything necessary for the 
resolution of this contradiction by its own internal powers. 
It possesses everything necessary to industrialize the coun- 
try, to lead the peasant economy into socialist forms of 
agriculture and in this way to abolish classes. Lenin and 
Stalin have shown the full possibility of a victory for 
socialism in our country. 
Stalin wrote: 

" What is meant by the possibility of the victory 
of socialism in one country? It is the possibility of 
resolving the contradictions between the proletariat and 
the peasantry by the internal forces of our country, the 
possibility of the proletariat's gaining power and making 
use of that power for the construction of a full socialist 
society in our country, accompanied by the sympathy 
and support of the proletarians of other countries, but 
without a preliminary victory of the proletarian revolu- 
tion in those other countries." 



This basic contradiction will be finally resolved in the 
U.S.S.R. at the end of the second Five Year Plan which 
has as its basic problem the full liquidation of capitalist 
elements and classes generally, the abolition of all those 
causes that create class distinctions— the construction of a 
classless society. 

After the abolition of classes, internal contradictions, in 
spite of the opinion of opportunists, will still be the source 
■of the " self-movement " of society. 

Although it is not our purpose here to dwell on what 
the basic contradiction of communist society is going to be, 
yet we can say with assurance, that in the first phase of 
■communism— socialism— the determining form of this 
contradiction will be the contradiction between the socialist 
character of production (based on society's appropriation 
of the means of production) and the distribution of the 
means of existence and enjoyment " (with the exclusion 
of necessary social funds) according to work done. This 
contradiction determines and will determine the whole 
diversity of the aspects of social development. It will be 
resolved by the growth of the productivity of labour and 
on that basis by such a refashioning of our people as will 
make possible the realization of the principle: "from each 
according to his ability, to each according to his needs." 
And so to understand the movement of any process it 
is necessary to disclose, amidst the diversity of its contra- 
dictions and opposite tendencies, the basic contradiction 
which determines the development of the process as a 
whole; it is necessary to disclose the source of its "self- 

The internal contradictions of every process are qualita- 
tively distinct from those of any other process. The basic 
contradiction of capitalism— the contradiction between the 
bourgeoisie and the proletariat, which can be solved only 
by socialist revolution, is one matter; the basic contradiction 
of the transitional economy, which will be solved by the 
industrialization of the country, by collectivization and 
Soviet farm construction, is another. 

i l 


Trotsky did not understand the essential character and 
specific nature of the development of the basic contradic- 
tion of capitalism in the imperialist epoch, he did not 
understand the law of uneven development. This is the 
first reason for his denial of the possibility of a victory 
for socialism in one country. According to Trotsky the 
contradiction between the proletariat and peasantry in the 
U.S.S.R. is the same sort of contradiction as the contra- 
diction between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie in a 
capitalist economy and, in his opinion, is to be resolved 
in the same way as the second — by international revolution. 
Trotsky also did not see the specific difference, that the 
peasants are small-scale commodity-producers who work 
with their own means of production and not bourgeois 
who exploit the work of other people (though it is true 
that from the midst of the peasants capitalism is being 
born every minute), that as a workman the peasant 
is the ally of the proletariat and that under a proletarian 
dictatorship conditions are created that will bring over the 
peasantry to socialist forms of agriculture. This is the 
second reason for his denial of the possibility of a victory 
for socialism in one country. Practice has gloriously refuted 
Trotsky and has shown that a contradiction which is 
qualitatively different must be differently resolved. The 
contradiction between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie 
in the conditions of capitalism is to be resolved by revolu- 
tion, by a proletarian seizure of state-power, but the con- 
tradiction between the proletariat and the peasantry in the 
conditions of the U.S.S.R. is to be resolved by industrial- 
ization of the country and by the collectivization of the 
agricultural economy, which leads to the liquidation of 

Practice has gloriously confirmed the theory of the 
possibility of a victory for socialism in one country. 

The opportunists of the right do not remark the specific 
character of the contradictions between the proletariat 
and the peasantry, and between the proletariat and the 
capitalist elements of a country — these two contradictions 



are held by them to be of the same type, on this idea rests 
their theory of the peaceful transition of the kulak into 

The lessons we get from Trotskyism and right opportun- 
ism teach us the necessity of disclosing the specific quality 
of the internal contradictions of any process. And for this 
a knowledge of every aspect of the contradiction is neces- 
sary. Marx wrote in The Holy Family, " Proletariat and 
riches are contradictions; as such they form a united whole. 
Both of them are brought forth by the world of private 
property. The question is, what definite position does each 
of these two opposites occupy in the contradiction." It is 
not enough to say they are the two aspects of a united 
whole. To understand the basic contradictions of capital- 
ism we must get to know the specific properties of the pro- 
letariat and bourgeoisie, their relations with each other, 
their^ concrete mutual independence, and the mutual 
conditioning factors of both classes. What the Marx- 
Leninist dialectic requires for the study of any process is 
this : the exhaustive disclosure of all aspects of the contra- 
diction with their concrete relations, that is to say, the 
" definite position which each of the two opposites occupies 
in the contradiction." 





Not only does every unity contain within itself polar 
opposites but these internal opposites are mutually con- 
nected with each other; one aspect of a contradiction 
cannot exist without the other. In capitalist society the 
bourgeoisie is connected with the proletariat, the proletariat 
with the bourgeoisie; neither of these two classes can 
develop without the other, because the bourgeoisie cannot 
exist without exploiting the labour of others and the hired 
proletariat cannot exist without selling its labour power 
to a capitalist, seeing that itself it does not possess the means 
of production. 

This mutual connectedness and mutual conditioning 
of contradictory aspects of actuality has also been stressed 
by the Party in its struggle on two fronts on the question 
of the character of N.E.P. 

" When a policy like that of the N.E.P. is adopted, 
both aspects must be preserved : the first aspect, which 
is directed against the regime of militant communism and 
has as its aim the securing of what is known as the free 
market, and the second aspect, which is directed against 
complete freedom of market and has as its aim the 
securing of a regulating role by the state over the market. 
Abolish one of these aspects and you will no longer have 
the N.E.P." (Stalin). 

We see the same indissoluble connection of contradic- 
tory aspects in all the processes of objective actuality. There 


is no mechanical action without its counteraction. The 
chemical dissolution of atoms is indissolubly connected with 
their union. Electrical energy declares itself in the form 
of opposite electricities — positive and negative. 

" The existence of two mutually contradictory aspects, 
their conflict and their flowing together into a new' 
category," wrote Marx, " comprises the essence of the 
dialectical movement. If you limit yourself to the task 
of warding off the bad aspect (for the preservation of the 
'good 5 aspect corresponding to it, as Proudhon de- 
manded) then by the separation of these aspects you 
put an end to the whole dialectical process." 

Opposites are not only found in indissoluble, inalienable 
connection, but they cross over and mutually penetrate 
each other. 

_ Thus process of production in a capitalist factory is 
simultaneously an aggregation of capitalist productive 
relations (for example the relations between the capitalist 
and the worker), and an aggregation of productive forces 
(the labour of the workers and the means of production). 
Development from manufacture i to machine production 
is not only a change of productive forces, but a development 
and spreading of new productive relations. The union 
of the labour force of the workers and the means of pro- 
duction is simultaneously a connection of productive forces 
and a connection of people in the process of production, 
which together make up the relation. The division of labour 
in manufacture is a relation in production and emerges 
also as a productive force. 

On the basis of this mutual penetration of capitalist 
productive forces, and capitalist relations in production, 
the process of ever intensifying contradiction between 
proletariat and bourgeoisie is also developed. 

1 Manufacture, strictly speaking, means " by hand " (Latin, mams) 
not fay machine. It refers therefore to the period before machino-facture 
and. steam power. 


The mutual penetration of opposites, the transition 
of one opposite into another, belongs to all processes. 
But to uncover and reveal this mutual penetration, a careful, 
concrete analysis of the process is required. 

The interests of the proletariat and the working peasantry 
in the U.S.S.R., classes opposed to each other both on 
account of their historic past and their relations to the 
means of production, are nowadays beginning to coincide. 
With regard to fundamental questions of socialist construc- 
tion, the peasant, as worker, appears as the ally of the pro- 
letariat. The peasant is interested in the strengthening 
of the proletarian dictatorship, because it guards him from 
having to return the land to the landlords and delivers 
him from exploitation by the kulak. 1 The peasant is 
interested in the socialist development of agricultural 
economy because this is the best method of raising agri- 
cultural economy to a higher level. The peasant is interested 
in the industrialization of the country because this creates 
a material basis for raising the level of agricultural economy 
and guarantees the defence of the country from the en- 
croachment of capitalists and landlords. Here we have the 
coincidence of the interests of the proletariat and the 
peasantry. Not until conditions were favourable for the 
rapid expansion of socialist industry on the one hand and 
for a mass movement of the peasants towards collectiviza- 
tion on the other, was it possible to unite the private- 
property interests of the peasants with the general interests 
of socialism. 

The first form of this combination was the N.E.P., which 
at the end of the civil war made possible the improvement 
of individualistic peasant economy and its co-operation 
on the basis of what is called the free market, under state 
control. In this way the raw material and provisions for 

1 Kulak, lit. fist. The tight-fisted, well-to-do peasant. " He may be a 
good manager, a man of enterprise and initiative, but as long as he 
exercises his talents for his own benefit, for the benefit of individualism, 
he is a great danger, a great enemy and must be wiped out " (Hindus, 
Humanity Uprooted). 


socialist industry were guaranteed. The combination of 
peasant economy and large-scale industry became ever 
closer as socialist relations in industry and trade the 
industrialization of the country, the development of 
machine-tractor stations and of the system of collective 
contracts with the state kept growing and were confirmed 
The result of this policy is that now, on the basis of direct 
collectivization of individual peasant holdings, N.E P 
has become a form of combination of the ' private- 
property interests of the peasantry with the interests of 
socialism, and this leads to the growth and strengthen- 
ing of socialist relations. The world-historical strategic 
significance of N.E.P. is determined by this fact, that 
the Party set up this policy on the basis of a profound 
analysis of the course and development of the contradic- 
tions of the transitional economy and the indissoluble 
connection of the opposite tendencies of their mutual 

We have emerged into the period of socialism and 
we are experiencing the last stage of N.E.P.— that is a con- 
tradiction l We are proceeding to a final liquidation of classes 
and we are strengthening the financial system and credit 
organizations ; we have adopted cost-accounting, we keep 
the purchasing power of the rouble stable and along with 
the organized economic strengthening of the collective 
farms we encourage the development of collective farm 
trading. But we do this because the strengthening of the 
financial system and the state banks is at the same time 
helping us to take stock of our economic position, to plan 
more exactly and to introduce disciplined business control. 
The cost-accounting system, the introduction of socialist 
planning into the workshop, the brigade, and the collective 
farm. The development of collective farm trading streng- 
thens the bond between the proletariat and the collective- 
farm peasants. An example of the analysis of the mutual 
penetration of opposites is given by Stalin in his solution of 
the problem of the relation of national and international 
culture under socialism. 


" The encouragement of cultures that are national in 
form and socialistic in content," said Stalin, in his report 
to the Sixteenth Assembly, " under conditions of prole- 
tarian dictatorship in. one country, with the ultimate aim 
of welding them into one general socialist culture (one 
both in form and content), with one general language 
for the day when the proletariat shall have conquered 
and- socialism have spread all over the world— in this 
conception we find the truly dialectical character ot 
the Leninist approach to this question of national 

culture. '. ' , 

" It may be objected that such a way of stating the 
question is 'contradictory. 5 But do we not meet with 
similar contradictions in the question of the State? We 
are for the withering away of the State. And yet we also 
believe in the proletarian dictatorship, which represents 
the strongest and mightiest form of State power that has 
existed up to now. To keep on developing State power in 
order to prepare the conditions for the withering away of 
State power— that is the Marxist formula. It is ' contra- 
dictory ' ? Yes, 'contradictory.' But the contradiction is 
vital, and wholly reflects Marxian dialectic. 

" Or for example, the Leninist statement on the right 
of the constituted nations of the U.S.S.R. to self-deter- 
mination, even up to the point of cutting adrift from the 
Soviet Union. Lenin sometimes used to put his thesis on 
national self-determination in the form of this simple 
statement, ' disunity for unity.' Just think— disunity for 
unity ! It smacks of paradox. All the same this contra- 
dictory formula reflects that vital truth of Marxian dia- 
lectic which enables the Bolsheviks to overcome the most 
formidable obstacles that beset this national question. 

" The same thing must be said about the question of 
national culture; there is an efflorescence of national 
cultures (and languages) in the period of proletarian 
dictatorship in one country but the very purpose of this 
is to prepare the conditions for the extinction of these 
separate cultures and the welding of them into one 



common socialist culture (and one common language), 
when socialism shall be victorious over the whole world. 

" Whoever has not understood this feature of the con- 
tradictions belonging to our transitional time, whoever 
has not understood this dialectic of historical processes, 
that person is dead to Marxism." 

In the transitional period, when the masses of builders of 
socialism have not yet " divested themselves of the skin of 
the old capitalist Adam/' when individualist habits and 
survivals are not yet outlived even in the ranks of the 
working class (to say nothing of the peasantry and old 
intelligentsia), we have to deal with many cases of the 
divergence of personal and social interests. But the Com- 
munist Party does not brush aside this actual contradiction 
and does not idealize actuality. It proceeds from the 
principle that the development of socialist relations for the 
first time in history makes widely possible such a " mutual 
penetration " of personal and social interests as will lead,, 
not to the crushing of personality, but to its real and full 
development along the same line as the interests of all 
society. This /'mutual penetration" is manifested in the 
form of piece-work, the insistence of differential wages 
according to the quality and quantity of the work done, 
the bonus system, diplomas and other awards for excep- 
tionally good work and other forms of encouragement 
designed to enlist all the powers of the individual in the 
service of society. 

" Mutual penetration " of opposites is also characteristic 
of the processes of our knowledge. 

One of the basic contradictions of human knowledge is, 
as we have already seen, the contradiction of relative and 
absolute truths. 

We have the same mutual penetration in the relationship 
of the particular and the general which are reflected in our 
ideas. The particular does not exist except in relation to the 
general. The general exists only in the particulars. Every 
generalization only approximately grasps all the particular 



objects. Every particular thing partly enters into the 

The universal laws of development, reflected in the 
categories of materialistic dialectic, can be understood only 
on the basis of the mutual penetration of opposites. 

" Dialectic shows," writes Engels, " that to hold that 
basis and consequence, cause and action, identity and 
difference, being and essence, are unalterable opposites, 
will not bear criticism. Analysis shows the presence of one 
pole in latent form within the other, that at the deter- 
mined point one pole goes over into the other and that 
all logic is developed only from the moving of these two 
opposites in one another's direction." 

Lenin used to call this " mutual penetration " of oppo- 
sites — the identity of opposites. To disclose the mutual 
penetration, the identity of opposites in any process is the 
central problem of our theory of knowledge, of materialistic 

Aptly enough, Engels, in defining the three basic laws of 
dialectic, formulated the law of movement through contra- 
dictions as "the law of the mutual penetration of opposites." 

Lenin defined dialectic as " the teaching of how contra- 
dictions may be and are identical ; under what conditions 
they are identical; how they turn into each other and so 
become identical ; why the mind of man must not accept 
these opposites as dead or frozen but as living, conditional, 
mobile, the one always in process of turning into the other." 

To understand how opposites become identical is only 
possible by means of a careful, concrete and profound 
analysis of the process, by a study of the movement of all 
its basic aspects at its different stages, of all the conditions 
and possibilities of their transitions. 

The mutual penetration of opposites, being the expression 
of the basic scientific laws underlying the process, becomes 
possible and is realized only in some particular complex of 



The wage labourer is a living identity of opposites 
since he is the basic productive force of capitalism and 
all material commodities and at the same time is divorced 
from the means of production, possesses nothing except his 
hands, and is exploited by another class. Such a mutual 
penetration of opposites becomes possible only under the 
conditions of the capitalist system of production. 

The development of a culture, national in form, and 
international in content, the strengthening of the state 
power for the creation of the conditions leading to its 
decline, become possible and necessary only under the pro- 
letarian dictatorship. The development of cost account- 
ing in order to strengthen the financial system for the 
development of socialist planning is necessary in the period 
when it is still impossible to replace money in any way, and 
is possible only until the conditions for doing away with 
money shall have been created. The raising of the produc- 
tivity of labour by enlisting the personal interest of the 
worker, by encouraging the more highly qualified workers, 
by the preferential treatment of shock-brigaders, is possible 
only in the conditions of proletarian dictatorship and 
because increase in the productivity of labour is the decisive 
condition for constructing a complete socialist society and 
for the transition to a communist society with its principle 
of distribution according to needs. 

The understanding of this aspect of the law of the unity 
and conflict of opposites has made possible a correct 
analysis of the economic situation, of the mutual relations 
of classes and parties and consequently has determined the 
policy of our Party. Lenin wrote : 

" We have all been learning a little Marxism; we have 
been learning how and when it is possible to unite oppo- 
sites. Even more important is the fact that the revolution 
has compelled us to be continually uniting opposites in 
practice. But let us remember that these opposites may 
be united so as to obtain either mere discords or a 


Such a dialectical combination of opposing policies which 
appeared absolutely incompatible to the Mensheviks 
was the policy of our Party in relation to the Liberals in 
the period of the Zemstvo campaign 1 " to keep distinct in 
order to strike together." On the basis of such a combination 
was built the policy of the party in relation to the peasantry 
at different stages of the revolution, the combining of the 
interests of the proletariat and of the poorer peasants to 
bring about the socialist revolution, the policy of union with 
the well-to-do peasantry after the eighth assembly of the 

A clear model of the combination of opposites in the 
policy of the Party is found in the " Six Conditions " 3 of 
Stalin which introduced business methods and payment by 
results into Soviet industry and which, while giving every 
kind of support to the old intelligentsia, took steps to create, 
in the shortest period possible, numerous cadres of working- 
class technical experts. This " combination of- opposites " 
in the policy of our Party is directed towards social develop- 
ment in a determined direction and was always worked out 
in practice on the basis of an accurate and concrete study 
of objective contradictions. That is why this combination 
.always resulted in victory for the party line. That is why we 
have got from it a " symphony," not mere discords. 

A combination of opposites that does not issue from a 
faithful reckoning with objective conditions and facts is an 
-eclectic combination and cannot lead to the victory of the 
-determined trend of development, but instead to its defeat. 

1 Z emstw campaign. The zemstvos or provincial assemblies were created 
in 1864 and consisted of a number of elected delegates of landowners and 
peasants. Their powers were restricted in 1 890 but in 1 905 in response to 
public opinion they regained some of their independent initiative. The 

■ question then was to what extent revolutionary .socialists should partici- 
pate in these bodies. 

2 " The Six Conditions " of Stalin, were laid down in his speech to the 
leaders of industry in June 1 931 . Stalin asserted that a new situation 
had been created by the development of industry and that this required 
new methods of working. He enumerated six of these including rationali- 
sation, payment by results, personal responsibility for the job, technical 
education, encouragement of the intelligentsia and business accounting. 


Thus the Mensheviks constructed a whole policy of struggle 
for a bourgeois democratic revolution on the basis of an 
eclectic combination of the interests of the proletariat with 
those of the liberal bourgeoisie, which combination ignored 
the irreconcilability of those interests, ignored the concrete 
conditions of the development of Russia, ignored the 
peasantry as the basic ally of the proletariat in this revolu- 
tion, and handed the hegemony in the revolution to the 
liberal bourgeoisie, to whose interests it subordinated 
those of the proletariat. Such a combination led, as we 
said, to discord, to the defeat of the bourgeois democratic 

The right opportunists in the U.S.S.R. held it necessary 
to combine the interests of the proletariat with those of the 
peasantry in such a way as neither to harm the kulak by 
curtailing his tendencies to exploit — rather to enable him 
to develop them — nor to prepare or carry out. the policy 
of liquidating the kulak as a class. They held it was neces- 
sary to combine for many decades the small scale indivi- 
dualist peasant economy with large scale socialistic produc- 
tion. This combination is eclectic and impossible, for it 
fails to realize the impracticability of continuing a long 
drawn-out development of a double system — large scale 
socialist industry on the one hand, and on the other, decaying 
peasant economy, that economy which every hour and every 
minute gives birth again to capitalism. This combination 
ignored the irreconcilability of the interests of the pro- 
letariat and the capitalist elements. Such a combination 
would inevitably lead not to a victory for socialism but to 
a bourgeois restoration. Gradualist socialists seek theoretic- 
ally to base their betrayal of the interests of the working 
class and their furious war against communism on an 
eclectic combination of the irreconcilable class-antagonists 
—the bourgeoisie and the proletariat— as given in the 
doctrine of the " evolution of capitalism into socialism." 

The group of Menshevist idealists, in spite of its repeated 
declarations on the unity of opposites as their mutual 
penetration, has in its analysis of concrete problems 


distorted both the proposition itself and the facts under 
investigation. The mutual penetration of opposites has in 
essence been reduced by them to the more limited notion 
that opposites presuppose each other. It is this abstract 
approach, this approach " in general " without concrete 
analysis, that has prevented the Deborin group from rightly 
understanding the dialectical unity of the historic and the 
logical in knowledge, the unity of theory and practice m 
revolutionary struggle and the actual relationships between 
the proletariat and peasantry in revolution. 

The study of mutual penetration, of the identity ol 
opposites, demands a concrete enquiry into the contradic- 
tory aspects of a process in its movement and development, 
the conditioning and mobility of all its facets, their conver- 
sion into each other. 

But those mechanists who hold themselves to be Marxists 
do not understand movement by means of contradictions. 
The mechanistic view has been very clearly and directly 
expressed by Bukharin in his Theory of Historic Materialism. 

" In the world there exist differently acting forces 
directed one against the other. Only in exceptional 
cases do they balance each other. Thenwe have a state 
of rest, i.e. their actual conflict remains hidden. But it 
is sufficient to change one of these forces, and imme- 
diately the internal contradictions will be manifest, there 
will ensue a breakdown of equilibrium, and if a new 
equilibrium is established, it is established on a new 
basis i.e. with another combination of forces, etc. What 
follows from this ? It follows that ' conflict of opposites,' 
i.e. the antagonism of differently directed forces, does 
indeed condition movement." 

According to Bukharin, there exist forces independent 
of each other and they act on each other. It is this external 
collision of differently directed forces that conditions move- 
ment While Lenin requires to know in the first place the 
internal contradictions of a process, to find the source of 


self-movement, Bukharin requires the determination of 
external forces that collide with each other. Lenin speaks 
of the division of the unity, requires the disclosure of the 
internal identity of opposites, the establishment of the 
concrete character of the connections of opposing aspects 
and their transitions. Bukharin requires the mere finding 
of independent forces. He understands the law of the 
unity of opposites mechanically, because he proceeds from 
the mechanics of a simple collision of forces independent of 
each other, as the general notional " model " which is 
suitable to explain every phenomenon. Such a reduction 
of an internal process to a conflict of independent forces 
inevitably leads to the seeking of the cause of change 
outside the process, in the action of its environment. 

From the . mechanistic understanding of the unity of 
opposites proceeds the theory of organized capitalism, 
which holds, as- fundamental for the epoch of imperialism, 
not the ■■.internal.' contradictions of each country, but their 
external contradictions on the world arena. 

On the mechanistic understanding of contradictions is 
constructed the Trotskyist theory that denies the possibility 
of a socialist victory in one country. Trotsky recognizes, as 
basic and decisive in this question, not the internal con- 
tradictions of our Soviet economy (which are being resolved 
within the country), but the external contradictions, the 
contradictions between the Soviet Union and capitalist 
countries. Trotsky holds that it is these last that determine 
the development of soviet economy and so only a resolution 
of these contradictions can lead to a complete victory of 
socialism in our country. 

Bukharin, like all mechanists, identifies contradiction 
with antagonism. That is wrong. Those contradictions 
(carefully distinguished by Marx and Engels in their 
analysis of the complex forms of development of class 
' society) are antagonistic, in which the struggle of indis- 
solubly connected opposites proceeds in the form of their 
external collisions, which are directed on the part of the 
dominant opposite so as to preserve the subordination of 


its opposite and of the type of contradiction itself; and on 
the part of the subordinated opposite— to the destruction 
of the dominant opposite and of the contradiction itself as 


The contradiction of any process is resolved, not by 
some external force, as think the mechanists, but by the 
development of the contradiction itself. This is true also 
in regard to antagonistic contradictions. But in the course 
of development of an antagonistic contradiction at its 
different stages, only the premises for its resolution are pre- 
pared and ripen. The contradiction itself at every new 
stage becomes ever more intensified. An antagonistic con- 
tradiction does not pass beyond the. stages of its partial 

Thus the periodic crises of capitalism are a "violent form 
in which the contradictions of a. given cycle of capitalist 
reproduction find their resolution; but in relation to the 
contradictions of the capitalist means of production as a 
whole, these crises emerge only as landmarks of the farther 
intensification of these contradictions and of the ripening 
of the forces making for the violent overthrow of capitalism. 

Antagonistic contradictions are resolved by the kind of 
leap in which the internal opposites emerge as relatively 
independent opposites, external to each other, by a leap 
that leads to the abolition of the formerly dominant 
opposite and to the establishment of a new contradiction. 
In this contradiction the subordinated opposite of the 
previous contradiction now becomes the dominant opposite, 
preserving a number of its peculiarities and determining 
by itself the form of the new contradiction, especially at 
the first stages of its development. 

But in contradictions that do not have an antagonistic 
character, the development of the contradiction signifies 
not only the growth of the forces making for its final 
resolution, but each new step in the development of the 
contradiction is at the same time also its partial resolution. 
Not all contradictions are antagonistic. Thus the relation- 
ships of the proletariat and the peasantry are not of an 


antagonistic character — in both classes we find a number 
of common interests. In a class society the contradictions 
of the basic classes are antagonistic and are resolved in 
antagonistic form. In developed socialist society there will 
be no class struggle, no class antagonism. "It is only in 
an order of things," says Marx, " in which there will be no 
more classes and class antagonism, that social evolutions 
will cease to be political revolutions." 1 

But Bukharin, because he identifies contradiction with 
antagonism, holds that in general there will be in this case 
no contradictions at all. 

This is what Lenin wrote in answer to that assertion: 
" Quite wrong. Antagonism and contradiction are by no 
means the same. Under socialism the first will vanish, the 
second will remain." 

If in developed socialism there were no contradictions — 
contradictions between productive forces and relations in 
production, between production and demand, no contra- 
dictions in the development of technique, etc. — then the 
development of socialism would be impossible, then instead 
of movement we should have stagnation. Only in virtue 
of the internal contradictions of the socialist order can 
there be development from one phase to another and 
higher phase. 

But each step in the development of socialism will 
denote not only a ripening of the forces making for a 
developed communist society, but also an immediate partial 
resolution of the contradictions of socialism. Just in the 
same way, each new stage in the transitional period denotes 
not only a growth of the forces making for socialism (which 
can enter into being once the leap to a new order is made), 
but also an immediate construction of socialism, a partial 
resolution of the most basic contradiction of the transitional 

The identification of contradiction with antagonism 
leads on the one hand to the Trotskyist assertion that the 
contradictions between the proletariat and the peasantry 

1 Marx, The Poverty of Philosophy. 



are of the same character as those between the proletariat 
and the bourgeoisie, i.e. are relations of class antagonism. 
On the other hand, it leads to right-opportunist conclu- 
sions. The right-opportunists maintain that the relations 
of these classes are not antagonistic and are, therefore, not 
even contradictory. 






Lenin wrote of Karl Marx's Capital : 

" Marx in his Capital at first analyses the simplest, the 
most ordinary, fundamental and commonplace thing, a 
relation to be observed billions of times in bourgeois 
commodity society: the exchange of commodities. In that 
simple phenomenon (in that cell of the bourgeois society) 
the analysis reveals all the contradictions (and their 
embryo as well) of modern society. The subsequent 
exposition shows the development (both growth and 
movement) of these contradictions and that of society in 
the sum total of its fundamental parts, from beginning to 
end. Such must also be the method of exposition (and of 
study as well) of dialectics in general." 1 

Such indeed must be the method of studying any process, 
i.e. our task must be to find its simplest, basic relations, to 
disclose in it the basic contradictions, to investigate their 
development and their conflict; to investigate how the 
development of a contradiction prepares its resolution and 
determines the form of its resolution ; to investigate the 
qualitative changes in the successive phases of develop- 
ment of a process, the relative independence of movement 
1 Lenin, vol. xiii, p. 324. 



of contradictory aspects, their mutual connection, their 
transitions one into the other; to disclose in the develop- 
ment of the conflict of opposites in any process the neces- 
sity and also all the conditions and possibilities of its con- 
version into its own opposite. Such must be the course ol 
study of any process in its emergence, development and decay. 
In Capital Marx begins from the simplest, basic relations 
of merchant-capitalist society— the exchange of com- 
modities. He at once shows the ambiguity, the contradic- 
tory characteristics of a " commodity," an article made 
simply for sale, as a unity of price and value, discloses -s 
internal contradictions, the ambiguous character ot trie 
labour that creates the article, the concrete labour on the 
one hand and on the other the abstract labour tnat creates 

the value. ,•/ /W 1 * .-_•., ,. . 

Marx further shows that the mlernal-contraaictipn con- 
cealed in the commodity finds the, forms, of its move- 
ment in the external contradiction, which emerges as the 
relation of the relative and the equivalent forms o, value 
which are polar opposites, indissolubly connected With eacti 
other The further development of this relationship, whicn 
reflects the development of the commodity, goes tnrougn 
three stages of a simple, a developed and finally a universal 
form of value. In the last of these stages, the article takes 
on the double form of the commodity itself and its mon- 

6t The 6 development of money, in its different functions, 
being the result of the extension and complication of com- 
modity relations and at the same time the condition of the 
development of these relations, is the further form ot de- 
velopment of its initial contradictions. . 

Marx shows further the process of the development o 
money into capital, the internal contradiction of the general 
form of movement of capital and the continual resolution 
of this contradiction in the buying and selling of labour 
power. The appearance of the latter denotes the higher 
development of the initial contradiction, the development 
of the law of value on a very universal scale. At this point 



development takes place more quickly and with more 
intensity than formerly, because by the separation of 
the means of production from the producer (and the stage 
of development of commodity relations that we are dis- 
cussing ineritably leads to such a separation) the basic pro- 
ductive power — labour power — is turned into a commodity. 
Production of commodities for sale becomes capitalist. 
Thus we arrive at the basic means of production of a new- 
social structure. The conversion of money into capital 
denotes the development of the law of value into a new 
quaiitatively unique law -system — into the law of Surplus 
Value which is the '' source of the self-movement " of 
capitalism. :- ■ < 

Marx shcwjijt^t'the-capltarist organization of production 
" denotes She concentration in great workshops of the 
hitherto disconnected means of production and their con- 
version by this means from the productive forces of separate 
persons into social productive forces " but under conditions 
of individual t appropriation. He further shows how ; the 
pursuit after^-a continuous increase in the rate of surplus 
value, whicb-rdepends on the physiological limitations of 
the working day and the resistance of the working class, 
leads to the growth and intensification of the contradictions 
between the social character of production and individual 
appropriation — that basic contradiction of capitalism — 
leads to the growing of simple capitalist co-operation into 
manufacture, and thence into production by machinery. 
Marx showed that the increase of the rate of exploitation 
requires an uninterrupted expansion of production, that 
reproduction leads to the concentration and centralization 
of capital and consequently to the ruin of small-scale 
capitalists. From another point of view, the same process 
of capitalist reproduction 1 creates an industrial reserve 

1 Reproduction. A technical term in Marxian economics. In order to 
maintain the flow of commodities the instruments of production must be 
renewed; at the same time every commodity wears out or is destroyed. 
Industry therefore shows us various kinds of commodities being pro- 
duced, used and produced again. There is a constant reproduction of 
things. See Marx, Capital, vol. i, p. 621. 


army, and ever more and more intensifies class contradic- 
tions.'Marx disclosed in all its terrible nakedness the general 
law of capitalist accumulation, with, the absolute im- 
poverishment of the working class as its obverse side, thus 
showing the inevitability of the collapse of capitalism. 

In disclosing the essence of capitalism and its deep, ever 
changing contradictions, Marx shows the emergence, on 
their basis, of contradictory phenomena. To this are devoted 
the second and third volumes of Capital, where Marx shows 
the process of the circulation of capital and its reproduc- 
tion, and the division of surplus value into -the forms of 
profits of enterprise, interest, profits of- commerce and 
ground rent. Marx shows here how |he law of value is 
developed in its external forms, growmg..into , ata s w of costs 
of production. He shows how production is' expanded, how 
the organic composition of capital grows and 4i6wy_- under 
the influence of this, the rate of profit f£-ls,although the nope 
of its rise is the very thing which drives^capitalism .to de- 
velop the forces of production. He fur„th'eV shows ~ho\\ 
capitalist contradictions ever more arid more" intensify, 
finding their temporary solution m certain* characteristic 
phenomena— crisis, depression, recovery, boom— the trade 
cycle, which appears as the forces of production emerge m 
ever more irreconcilable conflict with the social law of their 
development. The social structure of capitalism hampers 
the development of productive forces. The bourgeoisie 
becomes unable to control production. The movement of 
capitalist contradictions gives rise to the necessity and also 
to all the conditions and possibilities of the collapse of 

That is the picture unfolded by Marx in Capital ana com- 
pleted by Lenin and Stalin in their works on imperialism 
and the general crisis of capitalism. 

The method applied by Marx in Capital has necessarily 
to be applied in the study of any process. A model of the 
masterly application of this method is the analysis of de- 
velopment of the struggle between the proletariat and the 
bourgeoisie given by Marx and Engels in the Communist 



Manifesto. This same method lies at the basis of the analysis 
of the origin, development and abolition of classes and the 
state given by Engels in his work The Origin of the Family, 
and by Lenin in The State and Revolution, and of the analysis 
of the origin and development of capitalism in Russia 
given by Lenin in his celebrated work on The Development 
of Capitalism in Russia. 

An analysis of the movement qf contradiction in its 
emergence, development and decay is the only way to a 
knowledge both of the basic laws of the development of a 
process and of the diverse concrete forms of its appearance 
at different stages and in different conditions. 

The mechanistic conception not only cannot show the 
movement .-.of opposites in their emergence and develop- 
ment, but.rcajly inhibits such a method of getting to under- 
stand actuality, because from its point of view every process 
begins its movement from stable equilibrium, when either 
there are. no contradictions or they are reconciled and 
balanced and therefore cannot be a stimulus to further 
development. Contradictions appear only at a known stage 
of the movement of a process, as a result of the action of 
external causes'; as a result of the upsetting of equilibrium. 

The group of Menshevist idealists, forsaking concrete 
actuality for the field of pure abstractions— of the self- 
movement of mere ideas, also came out with a revision of 
this method. The Deborin group uncritically accepted the 
Hegelian way of stating the question of the unity of oppo- 
sites without noticing its idealistic features. .' ;"-■■' 

Hegel in founding his whole philosophic system,, pro- 
ceeded, as we have said earlier, from the self-development 
of absolute spirit. However, in distinction from other ideal- 
ists — and in this lies his great service— he tpok as a " model " 
for the different forms of absolute spirit the stages in the 
development of social knowledge, which stages he under- 
stood and interpreted in his own way. After schematizing 
the different forms of thought which he had observed in 
history, he came to the conclusion that dialectical know- 
ledge (which contains in its own categories, and in their 



order, in a purely theoretical fashion, the history of know- 
ledge passes in its understanding of any object through 
stales of identity, difference, opposition and contradiction^ 
TO say nothing of the fact that Hegel wrongly represented 
""identity" as the first step in knowledge, the organs 
defect of all his philosophy was this, that he connected his 
scheme of the development of knowledge, of subjective 
mind, with the objective world as the law of development oi 
all its subjects. In this the idealist, Hegel, stands out clear y 
Deborin did not notice that Hegel, by making absolute 
certain characteristic features of our thought, by declaring 
them to be the movement of absolute spirit, by constructing 
a formalistic scheme of the movement of categories, was 
also forcing actuality and its developments into the lro- 
crustean bed of such a scheme. ' ' , 

According to Deborin (following Hegei) toe develop- 
ment of the processes of objective actuality proceeds from 
abstract identity to difference, from ^difference _ tc .opposite- 
ness and thence to internal contradiction. Deborin wrote. 

« When all the necessary steps of development— from 
simple identity through difference and opposite ness have 
been traversed, then begins the epocii of tne resoiuaon 
of contradictions.' " 

In Deborin's opinion and that .of his followers, contra- 
diction appears in a process, not at its very beginning ^ but 
only at acertain stage of its movement; but this can mean 
only one thing, namely, that until this stage is reached the 
development of the process is not by virtue of its inward 
contradictions. This view-point is not only a revision of 
dialectic at its central point, but is close to the mechanistic 
conception of development. Because if the development of 
any process begins and proceeds up to a given moment not- 
by virtue of its internal division-assuming it be at tne 
beginning still undeveloped-then the process, until this 
momentfmust be due to external causes. But that is also 
the view of the mechanists. Deborin, by accepting Hegel s 


scheme, which identifies the development of knowledge 
with the development of matter, has, in his understanding 
of the basic law of dialectic, lapsed into mechanism, 
against which he had waged such a desperate conflict. 
The only logical dialectic can be materialistic dialectic. - 

By applying this view on the development of contradic- 
tion to the analysis of the concrete question of the relations 
between the proletariat and the peasantry in the conditions 
of the U.S..S.R., Deborin and Luppol came to the conclu- 
sion that they are not contradictory relations but only rela- 
tions of difference, i.e. they came to a right-opportunist 
watering down of the contradiction between the two classes. 
Karev, proceeding from the same point of view, declared 
that in the Third Estate of pre-revolutionary France, there 
were no internal contradictions but only differences, i.e. 
the relations of the proletariat and the bourgeoisie were 
not contradictory. In actuality the interests of the proleta- 
riat and the bourgeoisie were contradictory from the very 
moment of the emergence of these antagonistic classes. 

It is quite true that contradictions move, become inten- 
sified, go .through a number of stages in their development, 
forming at each one of them new qualitative properties. 
It is also true, that the knowledge of the contradictions of 
this or that process emerges most fully and visibly at the 
highest developed stage of the process. The proletariat, we 
know, becomes as a whole ever more and more conscious 
of the irreconcilability of its interests with those of the 
bourgeoisie, according as the capitalist contradictions 
intensify. But from these true positions It is impossible to 
■conclude, as does Deborin, that contradictions appear only 
at a given stage of the development of a process. No, they 
belong to it from the very beginning. 

Deborin's view blunts our apprehension of the contradic- 
tions of the initial stages in the development of processes, 
leads to a watering down of them and in this way is a per- 
version of dialectic ; it pursues the Mensbemst line. 

• The development of a process at all its stages is the 
movement of its contradictions. 




In the foreword to the first volume of Capital Marx 

wrote : 

" In its rational form dialectic is a scandal and an 
abomination to the bourgeoisie and its doctrinaire spokes- 
men, because, while supplying a positive understanding 
of the existing state of things, it at the same time furnishes 
an understanding of the negation of that state of things, 
and enables us to recognize that that state of things will 
inevitably break up ; it is an abomination to them be- 
cause it regards every historically developed social form 
as in fluid movement, as transient ; because it lets 
nothing overawe it, but is in its very nature critical and 

Dialectic " in its rational form," materialistic dialectic, 
is a scandal and an abomination to the bourgeoisie because, 
as opposed to metaphysical views which stress the immuta- 
bility of existing forms or their slow uninterrupted " evolu- 
tionary " change, it demonstrates the revolutionary change 
of forms, the self-negation of everything existent, in virtue 
of the development of internal contradictions. 

But whoever reduced Marx's thought, or the Marx- 
Leninist doctrine of development in general, to the state- 
ment "all flows, all changes," would distort the actual 


essence of the doctrine and would open the door to mech- 
anism, relativism, teleology, and modern neo-Hegelianism. 
Indeed the mechanists also, as we know, are ready to admit 
that " all flows, all changes." But " flows and changes " in 
their understanding is only a quantitative process, the 
actual elements remaining unchanged. And the relativist 
not only admits that " all changes, all flows," but makes 
such change absolute, including within it our own know- 
ledge. Thus every kind of stability in objective phenomena 
is swept away, becoming but a subjective appearance. Our 
knowledge is held to be limited and distorted in its very 
nature so that it does not even reflect truly the creative 
flow of reality. 

The teleologically inclined bourgeois thinker also admits 
that " all flows, all changes." But he goes on to affirm, 
that this flow, this change, is nothing else than the path to 
the realization of ever more perfect forms, the tendency 
towards which is deeply seated in life itself, that movement 
is determined by those ideal forms in which the imminent 
purposes of iffie. reside. 

There are- other eclectic points of view, as, for instance, 
the theory that history shows an alternation of stable and 
revolutionary epochs, the first characterized by defmiteness, 
stability and self-identity of the processes found in it, the 
second by indefiniteness, movement and change. Where 
there is defmiteness there is no change; where there is 
movement, there is no defmiteness— that is the essence of 
this eclectic wisdom ! 

Only a conception of development as a conflict of internal 
contradictions at all stages of development, gives a pro- 
found and adequate understanding of actuality and arms us 
against mechanism, relativism, eclecticism and other bour- 
geois revisionist " isms." This conception alone shows the 
unity of the aspects of a process and their relative identity 
not as an external form, not as a stage in a process, not as 
a basic characteristic of a process, but as a form of internal 
contradiction, of conflict of internal opposites. This form 
expresses the type of contradiction and is determined by 


it (the contradiction), emerges on its basis, develops and 
decays. There is no- internal contradiction without a unity 
of conflicting aspects within,, without a general basis of 
conflict which expresses itself in the relative identity of 
opposites. But unity and identity, which are the necessary 
form of the movement of the contradiction, are at the 
same time conditioned by it as by the actual content of the 
development. Therefore, to regard unity, the identity of 
opposites, as a " reconciliation of opposites " is a direct 
perversion of Marxism. Yet we find this view expressed in 
almost identical terms by the mechanists, the reformist 
socialists and the Menshevist idealists. 

Materialistic dialectic has nothing in common with the 
point of view of" reconciliation of opposites "which subor- 
dinates the conflict of opposites to a process of inevitable 
and pre-determined reconciliation. Materialistic dialectic 
which is "in essence critical and revolutionary " (Marx) 
understands the resolution of contradictions to be the replace- 
ment of one type of contradiction by another. This resolu- 
tion, in which " opposites " become identified " (Lenin), 
expresses not the " reconciliation " but the resolution of 
their contradiction in a new contradiction, a new type of 
internal conflict. 

This thought was also expressed by Lenin in his cele- 
brated proposition on the relativity of the unity of opposites 
and the absoluteness of their conflict, which was neglected 
and not understood by the Menshevist idealists. Lenin 
wrote : 

" The unity (the coincidence, identity, resultant force) 
of opposites is conditional, temporary, transitory, and 
relative. The struggle of the mutually exclusive opposites 
is absolute, as movement and evolution are." 1 

For, as we see, the conflict of mutually exclusive opposites 
leads to a change in the character of that unity, coincidence 
and mutual penetration in which they are found ; this conflict 
1 Lenin, vol. xiii, p. 324. 


determines the character of the resolution of their con- 
tradiction. Conflict makes their internal unity conditional, 
temporal, transitional. Conflict leads to the final resolution 
of the given contradictions, to their removal, creates the 
beginning of a new process. In a class society, every given 
form of society is temporal and transitory, the change of 
any given form of a class society and the abolition of classes 
are accomplished by means of class struggle. On the 
developing basis of the contradiction of capitalist economy, 
i.e. the contradiction between the social character of pro- 
duction and individual appropriation, only the conflict of 
both mutually exclusive opposites would lead to the 
replacing of the' original form of their unity and mutual 
penetration (but of which they were developing into some- 
thing new) Iby another form. The growing intensity of the 
conflict of these opposites leads to the necessity of their final 
resolution and liquidation. This conflict creates also all the 
necessary conditions and possibilities for it. 

Out of the thorough understanding of this aspect of 
dialectic proceeds the policy of our Party. The Party saw in 
the different forms of the bond between the proletariat and 
the peasantry, at the various stages of N.E.P., not a form 
of reconciliation of those opposites, but a form of resolution 
of the temporal, partial contradictions, characteristic of the 
given stage, and at the same time, a step forward in the 
resolution of the basic contradiction of the transitional 
period— the contradiction between socialism and capital- 
ism. And so the Party did hot make eternal the different 
forms of this bond between peasants 'and industrial workers 
(for this would have meant that we were oblivious of the 
basic contradictions of the transitional period — which was 
the mistake of the right deviation), nor did it regard the 
changing of slogans in relation to the peasantry as man- 
oeuvres called out by the situation, allowing us to " gain 
time" until the final resolution of the contradiction in 
world socialism — which was how the Trotskyists viewed the 

Stalin in a speech at the Fifteenth Congress said : 


" Our development proceeds, not by a smooth, un- 
broken movement upwards. No, comrades, we have 
classes, we have contradictions inside the country, we 
have a past, a present and a future, and the contradictions 
between these are still with us. We cannot therefore glide 
smoothly forward. Our course is one of struggle, of ever 
developing contradictions and of their subsequent 
mastery, analysis and liquidation. Never, so long as there 
are classes, shall we be in the position to say : Well, thank 
God, now all is well. Never, comrades, shall we have that 
state of affairs. Always in our experience something is 
dying out. But whatever it is, it does not like the idea 
of dying; it struggles to go on existing, it defends its 
outworn activity. Always something new is being born 
in our life. But whatever it is, it is not just born, it 
screams and cries, asserting its right to exist. . . . The 
struggle between the old and the new, between what is 
dying out and what is born — that is the basis of our 

Only in bitter class struggle with the capitalist elements, 
and in their eventual suppression, only in the proletariat's 
struggle for a socialist recasting of the small-individualist 
peasant economy (which is the last base upon which 
capitalism can rebuild itself), only in the struggle for the 
higher productivity of labour, in the struggle for the incul- 
cation of socialist discipline can classes be abolished. 

The policy of the Communist Party proceeds on the 
understanding that the contradiction between the Soviet 
Union and its backward technique, a struggle which takes 
place in the conditions of a capitalist environment, can be 
only temporary, that it will be resolved inevitably either by 
the Bolsheviks' mastery of technique or by the collapse of 
Soviet power. 

A characteristic feature of our party is that we do not 
fear difficulties or contradictions, we do not flee from strife, 
but proceed to a dispassionate analysis of the contradictions 
of actuality, an exposure of new contradictions, a study of 


the course of their movement, of the course of preparation 
of conditions and possibilities for their mastery and solution. 
Kaganovich, in a speech celebrating the tenth anniversary 
of the Institute of Red Professors, said in describing this 
feature of Bolshevist practice : 

" What exactly does the unity of opposites mean in 
the ordinary language of our -political party ? The unity 
of opposites in actuality means not to be afraid of diffi- 
culties. Not to be afraid of those contradictions of life 
which spring up on our journey, but instead to conquer 
them with Bolshevist energy and staunchness." 

A characteristic feature of Our party is its struggle for 
the victory of a determined tendency of development, for 
the victory of one of two opposite alternatives; it is a 
struggle that excludes any haphazard drift. 

The understanding of the absolute struggle of opposites 
and of the relativity of their unity distinguishes Marx- 
Leninism from the reformist parties. Not one theoretician 
of social reformism, neither Kautsky nor Plekhanov, could 
rise to the comprehension of movement by means of the 
division of unity, of the absoluteness of the struggle of oppo- 
sites and the relativity of their unity; hence their merely 
formal acknowledgment and lack of comprehension of 
these principles. The further evolution of these theoreticians, 
especially Kautsky, consisted of an ever greater revision of 
this central aspect of materialistic dialectic. It was not a 
matter of chance that at the end of his life Kautsky com- 
pletely rejected dialectic and declared that the theory of 
social movement proceeding by means of contradictions 
was merely " revolutionary metaphysics." 

The whole political theory and tactics of the right wing 
of the older reformism and of modern reformist socialism 
are based on theories of this sort and derive from the idea 
of the reconciliation of opposites. Thus instead of Marx's 
proposition on the irreconcilability of the conflict of classes, 
they preach a harmony of interests of the bourgeoisie and 


the proletariat, a compromise between both classes, they 
summon the proletariat to assist capitalist rationalization, 
or to support the national bourgeoisie in its struggle for 
a market, or to take part in bourgeois governments, etc. 
Instead of a struggle to overcome the contradictions of 
capitalism, a struggle for their forcible resolution by means 
of setting up a proletarian dictatorship and expropriating 
the bourgeoisie, they try to smooth over, to reconcile these 
contradictions and by that means to preserve capitalism. 

The tactics of the Bolsheviks in relationship to the liberal 
bourgeoisie in the period of the Zemstvo campaign were 
expressed in the slogan " To keep separate in order to strike 
together." This common offensive with the liberal bour- 
geoisie at a determined stage and in a determined form 
was a relative, temporary, conditional moment in the 
tactics of socialism. But the Mensheviks attached to this 
relative moment an absolute significance and placed it 
at the base of all their strategy, and finally as a con- 
sequence played the- part of the left wing of the counter- 
revolutionary bourgeoisie. In 191 7, the Menshevists, 
Plekhanov in particular, came out as supporters of the 
bourgeoisie, preaching a harmony of class interests, and 
demanding the continuance of the imperialist war, and 
directed all their energy against everything that hindered 
the strengthening of capitalism and above all against the 
preparation for a socialist revolution. After October the 
Mensheviks directly supported the Whites. In the period of 
the developed advance of socialism on the whole front, 
when the Mensheviks, overestimating the importance of the 
capitalist elements within the country, had dreams of a 
bourgeois " regeneration " of the Soviet power and were 
finally disappointed, they transferred their activity to a 
direct hostility to the vital interests of the proletariat of 
the U.S.S.R. and to sabotage and espionage in the service of 
the general staffs of the imperialist powers. And all this in 
the name of establishing a democracy, by which they meant 
a society whose aim was to harmonize the interests of 
proletariat and bourgeoisie. 



The conception of the unity of opposites as their recon- 
ciliation is also characteristic of the positions of the Right. 
Prom the Marx-Leninist position of the irreconcilability of 
the contradictions of the capitalist means of production they 
have lapsed into a theory of organized capitalism, which 
asserts that the contradictions within capitalist countries 
can be removed and transferred to an external arena, to 
■the world market. They have formulated a theory that, all 
the world over, the kulak peasant economy will gradu- 
ally turn into socialism. The Leninist theory of the abolition 
of classes by means of intensified class struggle has been 
replaced by a theory of the abolition of the class struggle, 
its peaceful dying out. They explained the intensification 
of class struggle in the U.S.S.R, by the " blunders of the 
Bolsheviks with their unwise decrees," and did not realize 
that the growth and advancement of socialist elements 
inevitably evoke the opposition of the dying capitalist 
-elements. The Right did not see the contradictions within 
the peasantry itself, they represented them as a homo- 
geneous social mass. They did not " notice " that our union 
with the peasantry is a union that takes account of the 
irreconcilability of the interests of proletariat and bour- 
geoisie and therefore is directed against the capitalist 
elements and tendencies within the peasantry. 

The Right did not understand that the union of the 
proletariat with the peasantry is a form of the proletariat's 
struggle for the recasting of small-scale-commodky econ- 
omy, for its transfer to the socialist path of development. 
They ■" forgot " about the temporary character of N.E.P., 
about its ambiguity. The right-opportunist theory, being 
a theory of reconciliation of opposites, leads to the perpetua- 
tion of small-scale commodity production and -therefore to 
the perpetuation of classes. " Bukharin, the theoretician 
without -dialectic, the scholastic theoretician " (Stalin), did 
not understand the doctrine of the absolute conflict of 
opposites and the relativity of their unity. 

The view -point of reconciliation of opposites constituted 
the basis for that revision of Marxian dialectic which issued 


from the group of Menshevist idealists. Not one of its 
expositors finds room to mention the absoluteness of the 
conflict of opposites and the relativity of their union, 
although they ceaselessly comment on the paragraph in 
Lenin's On Dialectic where this aspect of the " division of 
unity " is formulated with extraordinary accuracy and 
clearness. In not one of their works is a criticism of the 
theory of the " reconciliation of opposites " to be found. 
On the contrary that is the very theory from which they 
proceed. Thus Deborin holds that dialectical materialism 
" scientifically reconciles opposites, namely, freedom and 
necessity, subjectivism and objectivism, but reconciles them 
dialectically." According to him, in dialectic " subject and 
object, object and knowledge about the object, obtain a 
relative reconciliation." Deborin defines dialectic not as a 
doctrine of the conflict of opposites, but as a " doctrine of 
the merging together of opposites." 

Dialectical materialism grew up in conflict with different 
forms of bourgeois philosophy, each of which was built 
upon the exaggeration and over-development of one aspect 
of human knowledge. But dialectical materialism did not 
simply cast them from the threshold, but critically worked 
over everything of value that had been discovered by pre- 
ceding philosophy, including the rationalism and empiricism 
of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Deborin, how- 
ever, regards this critical treatment of the bourgeois heri- 
tage as a reconciliation of opposite philosophic tendencies. 
He holds that " dialectical materialism reconciles extreme 
empiricism with extreme rationalism in a higher synthesis 

of the two." . 

The theory of reconciliation of opposites is a metaphysical 
theory. Because it does not lead to the disclosure of the ways 
of egress from a given situation it perpetuates each given 
situation; Nor does it direct its attention to the origin, of 
the new, to the creation of the new premises, possibilities, 
conditions, that will originate new processes on the basis 
of the contradictions of the given process. 

The type and character of the contending opposites, the 


degree of their development, define also the character of 
the solution of their contradiction. It is necessary to 
distinguish the forms of resolution of temporary, partial 
contradictions (which make possible the development of 
the basic contradictions of a process) from the forms of 
resolution of the basic contradictions of a process as a whole, 
which lead to the removal of that process. Thus the different 
forms of the bond between the proletariat and the peasantry 
in the U.S.S.R. made possible such a development of small- 
scale commodity production and large-scale socialist 
industry as prepared the way for a final resolution of the 
basic contradiction. And the forms of final resolution of 
those contradictions, which lead to the removal of the given 
basic contradiction, are all-round collectivization and the 
conversion of agricultural economy into a branch of 
socialist industry. The final resolution of contradictions 
denotes the removal of both opposite aspects. The victory 
of the proletariat in the socialist revolution denotes that it 
ceases to be a class in capitalist society and that the 
elements of the bourgeoisie opposed to it cease to be the 
class controlling the country's economy. The construc- 
tion of socialism denotes the victory of the proletariat, one 
of the basic classes of the transitional period, and leads 
to the abolition of classes as a whole, including, of course, 
the proletariat. 

The mechanists, who hold that a process develops in 
virtue of externally directed forces, think that the process 
goes in the direction of that force which predominates 
quantitatively. Bogdanov wrote: 

" If this or that process — the movement of a body, the 
life of an organism, the development of society — is deter- 
mined by the strife of two opposing forces, then, when 
one of these predominates quantitatively, however little, 
the process goes to its side, is subordinated in its direction. 
As soon as another force develops and at last equalizes 
itself with the first, the whole character of the process 
changes its quality; either it comes to an end, or later 


(however small be the increase of the second force), it 
takes on a new direction." 

Though this is basically true for mechanics, yet in the 
higher forms of movement it is impossible to attribute the 
direction of a process only to the direction of the quantita- 
tively predominating aspect. Thus the capitalist elements at 
war with feudalism were at first feebler than the feudalistic 
elements, but the development went ever more and more 
in the direction of the former; the growth and strengthen- 
ing of the capitalist elements resulted in the predominance 
of capitalism over feudalism, and the destruction of feu- 
dalist relations only at the end of the process. 

The socialist elements in the U.S.S.R., although at the 
time still very feeble, yet immediately after the October 
revolution played the leading role in the struggle with the 
capitalist elements. The growth of socialist elements con- 
solidated their position and led to their victory over the 
capitalist elements. 

The proletariat in the U.S.S.R. takes the leading role 
in union with the peasantry, which quantitatively exceeds 
the proletariat many times. The proletariat becomes the 
grave-digger of capitalism, creates a new direction for 
the development of productive forces, creates new forms 
of social relations, not simply because it increases 
quantitatively within the framework of capitalism, but 
chiefly because, in the conditions of the ever intensifying 
contradiction between productive forces and the capitalist 
relations of production, it welds itself together and organizes 
itself, and, under the leadership of its political party, resolves 
by means of revolution the capitalist productive relations 
and establishes proletarian dictatorship. 

The mechanists' view ignores all the concrete conditions 
of the development of a process, all the qualitative unique- 
ness of its laws. This leads to drift, to a falling back on 
natural forces, because, from this point of view, a mere 
simple quantitative predominance over the weaker aspect 
is sufficient to ensure a new direction in development. This 



view fully justifies the reformist theory of a peaceful transi- 
tion from capitalism to socialism, which is to proceed from 
the fact of the predominance of the specific gravity of the 
proletariat in large-scale capitalist countries. It also 
fully justifies the Trotskyist denial of the possibility of a 
socialist victory in the U.S.S.R., in virtue of the quantita- 
tive weakness of the proletariat and the low level of pro- 
ductive forces in that country. 

The character and direction of a process are defined by 
the character and direction of its basic moving contradic- 
tions—by their concrete mutual relations, by their conflict 
in the determined concrete situation. In the conflict of 
the mutually exclusive opposites, of the different tendencies 
of development, of the old with the new (as we saw above 
in more detail), one of the aspects, one of the tendencies, 
develops, becomes the leading one, and this defines the 
character and direction of a process. But this or that aspect 
or tendency of development becomes a leading one only 
through conflict. Thus in the conflict between the capitalist 
and socialist elements in the U.S.S.R., the socialist elements 
took the lead by virtue of the fact that the proletariat 
had established its dictatorship, had got possession of large- 
scale industry, were nationalizing the land, because it had 
established such mutual relations with the peasantry as 
guaranteed the support of the latter and thus prepared all 
the conditions and possibilities for the socialist recasting 
of the whole trading economy. If the dictatorship had 
weakened or the clearness of the general line of the party 
had become confused, if the opportunist elements had 
conquered, if there had ensued a long period of opposition 
to the peasantry, then the capitalist elements would have 
come " on top," would have begun to play the leading role 
and to annihilate the socialist elements. A less progressive 
tendency of development can conquer a more progressive. 
An old, ever more and more obstructive element, can, in 
fighting with a new, sustain itself for a considerable time, 
not allow the new to develop, and for a time even destroy 
it entirely. Capitalism, which hinders the development 


of productive forces, at the same time maintains its 
own existence, does not come automatically to a crash. 
Only the conflict of the proletariat with the bourgeoisie 
resolves the question of the crash of capitalism. That is why 
our party carries on a very fierce war against the theory 
of drift, which weakens the struggle of the proletariat and 
by this means strengthens its opponents and makes it 
possible for capitalism to go on maintaining itself. 



We have expounded the basic" moments of the law 
of the unity of opposites — the essence of dialectic. 

Bukharin does not understand this law. In his book 
The Theory of Historic Materialism he set himself the task 
of, as it were, transposing Hegel's idealistic mystical 
teaching on contradiction into a materialistic key. From 
Bukharin's view-point this must signify the translation of 
Hegelian dialectic into the language of modern mechanism. 
True to his position he holds that Hegel and Marx in speak- 
ing of movement by means of contradictions, implied in 
fact a collision of two oppositely directed forces. External 
forces collide and form a temporary, mobile equilibrium, 
which is then broken and is again set up on a new basis. 
Following Hegel, he called the primitive state of equilibrium 
"thesis," its destruction " antithesis," and the setting 
up of equilibrium on a new basis (" in which opposites 
are reconciled ") " synthesis." Bukharin expounds his 
theory thus : Everything consists of a number of elements 
connected with each other, which form a certain system. 
Every such "system" is connected with such other 
systems as compose its environment. Environment and 
system act mutually. This contradiction of system and 
environment lies, according to Bukharin, at the basis 
of all development. 

Bukharin does not deny internal contradictions. He 
admits that in society, for instance, there exists a number 
of internal contradictions : contradictions between produc- 
tive forces and the relations of production, contradictions 


of class, etc. But these internal contradictions, according 
to Bukharin, are the resultant of the external contradictions 
of the environment and the system. Thus class struggle with- 
in society is determined, according to Bukharin, by the 
contradiction of society and nature. Bukharin writes: 

" Internal (structural) equilibrium is a magnitude 
dependent on external equilibrium, is a ' function ' of 
this external equilibrium." 

Such is Bukharin's theory of equilibrium which he 
advances as the only correct, " theoretically systematic 
exposition and basis " of the Marxian dialectic. All that 
has been expounded in the foregoing pages makes clear 
that this theory leaves out of account the determining 
role of internal contradictions, the indissoluble connection 
of opposing aspects, their transitions into each other, 
their identity, and replaces the conflict of opposites by 
their reconciliation, i.e. it distorts the law of the division 
of unity and has nothing in common with Marx-Leninism. 
Bukharin's theory of equihbrium is not new. It enjoys 
great popularity in bourgeois sociology and economics. 
The bourgeois philosopher and sociologist, Herbert Spencer, 
built upon just such a theory a mechanistic theory of evolu- 
tion. In his opinion, there exist in nature forces directed 
against each other, between which an equilibrium is even- 
tually established. The direction of movement in a phenom- 
enon is determined by the quantitative predominance of this 
or that opposing aspect. Thus, for example, tyranny and 
freedom are, in his opinion, two independent forces, 
which all the time seek to balance each other, from which 
it follows that from the quantitative predominance of 
freedom or tyranny depends the movement of both these 
antagonists. But Herbert Spencer, in contrast to Bukharin, 
never called his theory dialectic. Prior to Spencer, Duhring, 
who directly attacked the dialectic of Marx and Engels, 
wrote : " Antagonism of forces that oppose each other in an 
opposite direction is also the basic form of all the actions 


J 99 

and manifestations of nature." Engels, in Anti-Diihring, 
strongly criticized this view. The theory of equilibrium 
was most clearly formulated by Bogdanov, who sought 
to reconcile idealism and materialism. Long before Buk- 
harin he set himself the task of transferring on to the soil 
of materialism not only the dialectic of Hegel, but also 
the dialectic of Marx and Engels which, in his opinion, was 
not completely emancipated from the idealism from which it 
originally sprang. The Marxian conception of dialectic, that 
is to say, of development, suffers, says Bogdanov, in 
common with the purely Hegelian conception, from lack 
of clarity and completeness, and for this reason the applica- 
tion of the dialectical method is inaccurate and diffuse. 
Bogdanov, long before Bukharin, translates dialectic into 
the " language of mechanics." Just like Spencer and 
Duhring he holds that movement through contradictions 
is a conflict between " two oppositely directed activities." 
But he admits at once that such a conception of the law 
of contradictory development parts company with the 
basic propositions of Marxism, and goes on to assert that 
Marxism by its failure to realize this truth is unable to 
explain the transition of quantity into quality. Bogdanov 
defines dialectic as "an organized process that proceeds 
by way of the conflict of opposing forces." Movement, in 
his opinion, begins first as an equilibrium which contains 
no contradictions; then that equilibrium is destroyed by 
the conflict of two opposing forces and set up anew on 
a fresh basis. The basic, determining contradiction, he 
holds to be the external, which is conditioned by the con- 
flict of internal forces and by the preponderance of one 
of them at a determined stage. In his opinion the basic 
contradiction is between the environment and the system. 

This theory of equihbrium enjoyed great popularity 
among various groups whose social and economic policies 
were in opposition to the Bolshevik line. 

Bukharin was also led to argue that class contradictions 
are only the results of the contradiction between society 
and the natural environment, so that if the equilibrium 


of society and nature is upset then the conflict of classes 
is intensified ; if society and nature are in stable equilibrium 
then the class struggle ceases. 

Although Bukharin tries to combine this theory with 
the Marx-Leninist theory of the inevitability of the pro- 
letarian revolution in view of the internal contradictions 
of capitalism, yet it is perfectly clear that Bukharin, by 
belittling the internal contradictions and not admitting 
their determined role, cannot prove the inevitability 
of the collapse of capitalism. 

Following Bogdanov he holds that society (including 
a Soviet economic order) develops when in return for 
its expended working energy it receives from nature as 
much or more energy. When this is the case we get equili- 
brium between society and nature. , 

The whole economic policy of Soviet society must 
proceed from the necessity of establishing such an equili- 
brium and must not allow any chance infringement of it. 
Bukharin proceeds to argue that the class struggle and 
similar contradictions can and should be removed with all 
speed by establishing an equilibrium between society and 
nature. This can be done by balancing the different factors 
in the natural economy. 

From this it follows that the point of crucial importance 
is that part of the economic plan where production has 
fallen behind. It may be iron, in which case engineering 
production generally will be held up. It may be bricks, in 
which case the building plan will be delayed. But these 
" equilibrium sociologists " deduced from their theory 
that the way to restore equilibrium was to cut down 
production and building to the level of the diminished 
supplies of iron and bricks. In other words we are to avoid 
the contradiction of the class struggle by slowing down 
capital construction. 

They also hold that we should overcome the contradiction 
between decaying small-scale individualist agricultural 
economy and large-scale socialist industry not by bringing 
the development of agriculture up to the level of industry 


(which is possible only by its transition to socialist forms of 
farming), but on the contrary, by lowering the tempo of the 
development of industry and thus establishing an equi- 
librium between them. Stalin himself dealt with this 
theory in his speech to the Agrarian Conference. 

" It is supposed," said Stalin, " that we have a socialist 
and a capitalist sector, side by side. These two compart- 
ments are completely isolated from one another. Each can 
pursue its own course without affecting the other. It is a 
geometrical fact that parallel lines do not meet, but the 
authors of this remarkable theory think that at some 
time or other these parallels will meet, and when they 
do, we shall have socialism." • 

Whence also arose the struggle against the Bolshevik 
tempo of industrial development, against rapid industriali- 
zation, and the struggle of some years ago to speed up light 
industry (at the cost of slowing down our plan for rapid 
capital development), in order to provide the individual 
peasants immediately with generous supplies of consumption 
goods, this same struggle aiming at perpetuating the small 
peasant economy for many years to come. This, in their 
opinion, would be the guarantee of a swiftly obtained 
equilibrium between agricultural economy and industry 
and of a harmonious development towards socialism with- 
out any intensification of class conflict. 

Marx-Leninist dialectic does not deny external contra- 
dictions — the action of one process on another. On the 
contrary it proceeds from the idea of an indissoluble 
connection of all processes of actuality and demands a 
knowledge of the mutual action of processes, their influence 
on each other, and their mutual penetration. 

But whereas mechanism and its theory of equilibrium 
regard any phenomenon as the result of the external action 
of processes on each other, and opposes one to the other as 
external and independent aspects of one and the same 
process, dialectic sees in the external only a particular form 


in which the internal manifests itself. Therefore, when we 
speak of the mutual action of the aspect of one process the 
dialectician will not be deceived by the moment of inde- 
pendence, of " externality," of these aspects but will seek 
to disclose in them, as the basis of their mutual action, as 
the actual " source of self-movement " of the process, their 
unifying internal contradiction. And so the dialectician 
will not classify the qualitatively different and mutually 
interacting processes as wholly independent and mutu- 
ally external " systems " and " environments." Moreover, 
since dialectic proceeds from the idea of an internal "unity 
of the world, which is contained in the fact of its being 
material," dialectic will see in the mutual action of external 
processes the mutual action of the diverse forms and degrees 
of matter alone, which matter is developed in these forms 
and through their mutual action. Therefore, dialectic 
will regard the external mutual action of processes as a 
moment of world development and will never forget that the 
basic law underlying all moments is that of the unity and 
conflict of opposites. 

There is of course no development of a process apart from 
its mutual action with other processes. It is a complete 
distortion of Leninism to represent the doctrine of self- 
movement, of spontaneous development, as though certain 
internal principles, locked up as it were and isolated from 
relations with the environment, were the determining 
factors in self-movement and provided all the conditions of 
development. But the external always plays its separate 
part not as the basis of development, but as one of its neces- 
sary conditions, and therefore its influence on a process may 
be understood only on the basis of a knowledge of those 
internal contradictions which fundamentally determine the 
course of development. 

, Marx-Leninist dialectic does not deny the contradiction 
of society and nature, but regards it as not the main, not the 
determining contradiction of social development. When 
we study history we see in a number of countries that 
whereas the geographic, climatic conditions, the vegetable 



and animal world, the natural riches, remained relatively 
unchanged, yet the social relations were changed, e.g. 
feudalism was replaced by capitalism. 

In the development of any particular social structure, for 
instance capitalism, dialectic regards the internal contradic- 
tion between capitalist productive forces and the capitalist 
relations of production as the important and determining 
factor. The contradiction between society and nature exists 
of course under capitalism, but the particular form of this 
contradiction is determined not by the properties of the 
geographical environment but by the basic laws of the 
development of capitalism. Society, by virtue of its internal 
law-governance and its development of productive forces, 
changes the geographical environment by ways and means 
specific for each social formation. Especially comprehensive 
was this changing of geographical environment by social 
man under capitalism with its machine technique and with 
its social character of production. There is a shortage of 
forests — the felling of them and their replanting are regu- 
lated. There is not enough coal — they substitute " white 
coal," i.e. petroleum. There is not enough leather, wool, 
silk — they make leather, wool and silk artificially. If there 
is not enough moisture from the atmosphere, they irrigate. 
The animal and vegetable world is being refashioned, for 
they are creating new breeds of animals, new types of plants. 

If in capitalist society the total amount of change in 
nature is, in spite of this, extremely limited, then once 
again this is explained not by the contradiction between 
society and nature but by capitalist productive relations, 
which do not permit the fullest possible development of 
productive forces. Only socialism guarantees such a possi- 
bility. The determining role of the social system in this 
matter of nature and society is clearly seen in the U.S.S.R. 
to-day, where the unified economic plan makes use of all the 
achievements of science and is changing the face of the 
whole country. 

The contradictions between the capitalist and socialist 
systems do, of course, influence the development of socialist 


relationships in the U.S.S.R. But socialist society is develop- 
ing on the basis of internal laws, on the basis of internal 
contradictions, and not on the basis of the external contra- 
dictions between the capitalist world and ourselves. The 
development of the U.S.S.R. is by no means subordinate 
to the development of capitalist world economy as Trotsky 
thinks. Economic and financial blockade, the refusal of 
credits, the blocking of Soviet exports, the different forms of 
diplomatic pressure, etc. — all are in some degree reflected 
in the development of socialism in the U.S.S.R., but the 
character and degree of the reflection are determined by the 
internal contradictions in our country. The degree in which 
the development of socialism is checked by international 
capitalism depends on the degree of development and rela- 
tive strength of the socialist and capitalist elements within 
the country. The weaker the former and the stronger the 
latter, the lower will be the tempo of industrialization and 
collectivization of the country, the feebler the onslaught on 
the capitalist elements, and the feebler our defence of the 
socialist front-line trenches. The stronger the force of 
kulakism, of N.E.P. in our country, the wider the net of our 
enemies. The greater the bureaucratism, the stronger the 
influence of opportunism in our ranks — so much the more 
vulnerable are we. In fact the degree in which our movement 
can be hampered by international capitalism depends in 
the last resort upon ourselves, upon the internal conditions 
of the country, and it would be completely untrue to attri- 
bute the rate of transition or the forms of transition to the 
varying influences of the capitalist world upon the Soviet 

A clear proof of this proposition and one which upsets all 
the assertions of the Trotskyists, is to be found in the fact 
that the world crisis of capitalism has not fundamentally 
affected the U.S.S.R. This crisis undoubtedly brought with 
it a number of complementary difficulties for our task of 
construction (the worsening conditions of credit, the fall 
of prices for our export, etc.), but it has had no decisive 
significance for the construction of socialism. 



We are constructing socialism on the basis of the internal 
force of the country ; our development towards socialism 
and the stages through which we pass are determined by the 
internal laws of social change. Nay more, the very change 
in the methods of the attack upon us by imperialism can be 
understood fundamentally only through a knowledge of 
our internal development. 

Even the issue of the desperate attempts of capitalism to 
destroy the Soviet Union is determined, in significant and 
ever greater degree, by the measure of our development 
and by the strength of the Soviet Union — because inter- 
national capitalism is riven by internal contradictions, 
and the growth of socialism in the Soviet Union and the 
significant development of the forces of world proletarian 
revolution intensify these contradictions. 

The full victory of socialism in our country has a decisive 
importance also for the final victory of socialism. 

And so we see that external contradictions certainly 
influence the development of a process ; that such contra- 
dictions, however, are only overcome by the internal self- 
development of that process itself. 

The theory of equilibrium ignores the specific properties, 
the qualitative peculiarity, of the process and its aspects. 
It replaces qualitative analysis with a purely mechanistic 
view and mechanistically derives one phenomenon from 

The theory of equilibrium, by ignoring the concrete 
content of a process and the necessity of disclosing its 
" source of self-movement," by belittling the latter or seek- 
ing to find the source of movement outside the given pro- 
cess, leads, on the one hand, to an abstract rationalistic 
approach to questions altogether too general to be of use, 
and on the other hand, to an empty schematism or to plain 
empiricism, which fails to penetrate to the heart of things. 
This ambiguity is characteristic also of our " Rights." Thus 
on the one hand they approach the questions of Soviet 
economy abstractly, they do not analyse the concrete 
conditions, phases and stages of its development, they 



cannot understand how the conditions and possibilities of a 
new phenomenon are created, they do not notice that a new 
stage of development sets questions in a new way, resolves 
its contradictions in a new way. On the other hand, by 
proceeding from the theory of establishing equilibrium, by 
levelling down to the weak spots in national economy, they 
arrive at a narrow practicality, aiming at quickly establish- 
ing some sort of balance between socialist industry and 
peasant production, a balance which they would attain 
by encouraging kulakism and restoring capitalism. 

The theory of equilibrium proceeds from the view-point 
of the reconciliation of opposites. For the upholders of this 
theory the state of equilibrium is the phase when opposites 
are reconciled. The upholders of this theory perpetuate the 
unity of opposites in their old form. They hold that unity 
cannot be removed by internal forces, it is to be removed 
only by external action. For them the Leninist proposition 
of the absoluteness of the conflict of opposites is a door with 
seven seals ! 

The theory of equilibrium, which so greatly exaggerates 
the relative independence of processes and their aspects, 
which slurs over the internal contradiction of a process, 
which preaches the reconciliation of opposites, is the 
theoretical basis of right-opportunism and of many hostile 
groups and therefore in its class essence is the theory of the 
restoration of capitalism. 

The Deborin group with their tardy criticism of the theory 
of equilibrium were quite unable to refute it. Apart from 
the fact that their criticism was too general and abstract, 
they did not even criticize the theory of equilibrium for its 
main defects ; firstly for its failure to acknowledge the fact 
that a process is from beginning to end developed by way 
of contradictions, and secondly for its reconciliation of 
opposites. They could not finally refute the theory of 
equilibrium because their own understanding of the law 
of unity of opposites is almost identical with that theory. 
Like the mechanists they hold that contradiction is not part 
of a process at the moment of its emergence, but only at a 



certain stage of its development. Whence follows the con- 
clusion, which they themselves are afraid to draw, that up 
till this moment a process develops as the result of external 
forces. Like the supporters of the theory which we have been 
discussing, they share the reformist view of reconciliation of 





Primitive man did not construct scientific theories. His 
knowledge was built up from a variety of concrete observa- 
tions and by practical rules of living which grew out of 
these observations. These rules were connected together 
by a system of mythological representations replete with 
images but lacking precise and logical sequence. The con- 
nection of natural phenomena with his own primitive 
practice was explained by myths and legends in which 
thunder-storms, the rain, the sun and so forth were identi- 
fied with the actions of mysterious beings. Only at a certain 
point in social development does knowledge become 
scientific and man rise to the construction of a logical, con- 
nected picture of the objective world. For this transition 
there was necessary a definite level of development of the 
productive forces at which a separation of mental work 
from physical was possible. From that time science has 
emerged as a special aspect of social action, from that time 
man began to theorize and to build up a picture of the 
objective world in logically connected ideas. 

And the first thing that confronted science was the mutual 
action of the infinite multitude of phenomena, their cease- 
less interweaving and change, their ceaseless emergence and 
disappearance. Knowledge, before it turns to the study of 
concrete details, accepts reality as a sequence of changes 
arid interactions. In spite of the entire naivety and super- 
ficiality of this initial view the first steps of science were at 
the same time the first steps of conscious dialectic. " All 


flows, nothing is at rest nor ever remains the same " — thus 
one of the greatest dialecticians in history, the ancient 
Greek philosopher Heraditus, used to characterize the 
ever-changing face of nature. As the Greeks used to say of 
him, " He likens things to a flowing river and says that it is 
impossible to enter twice into the same stream." 

In these, the first steps of knowledge, freed from direct 
connection with myth and religion, we find the primitive 
beginnings of materialistic dialectic. Lenin in his philo- 
sophical notes cites a very characteristic excerpt from 
Heraditus : 

" This order of things, the same for all, was not made by 
any god or any man, but was and is and will be for ever, 
a living fire, kindled by measure and quenched by 

Lenin, when he worked out the basic law of dialectic 
made direct use of the figurative expressions and clear 
formulations of Heraditus. 

Heraditus was the most characteristic but not the sole 
representative of that period of knowledge, fresh in its 
primitive naivety, when the world, not yet analysed on 
scientific lines, was being apprehended in its general flow 
and change. "All the ancient Greek philosophers were born 
dialecticians " (Engels). However, the general picture of 
development which they gave in their theories suffered from 
a fundamental defect. Their familiarity with particulars, 
with separate phenomena, was very slight and inaccurate. 
They paid " more attention to movement in general, to 
transitions and series, than to the particular thing that 
moves, is in transition and in series " (Engels). 

These philosophers variously attributed the origin of 
things to fire, to water or to air;' they did not show in any 
particular case how matter changed its form, but spoke of 
these changes only in order to characterize the whole world 
as in an eternal process of change. In confirmation of their 
general theories they brought forward from time to time 
most illuminating examples. But they were never more than 



examples and did not reflect a deep systematic study of 
objects but only approximate and superficial representa- 
tions, referring to that which is immediately visible to the 
eyes. Heraditus said, for instance, that " the parts of the 
creation are divided into two halves, each one opposed to the 
other ; the earth into mountains and plains, water into fresh 
and saltwater . . . similarly, the atmosphere (climate) into 
winter and summer and also into spring and autumn. . . ." 
How far removed is this poetic and superficial " con- 
cretization " of dialectic from the results of modern physics, 
chemistry and geology ! It is obvious that the Greeks by 
confining themselves to a merely superficial knowledge of 
phenomena could have no notion of their fundamental 
laws of development. 

However, all these positive and negative aspects of the 
first stage of scientific knowledge fully corresponded to that 
social practice on the basis of which Greek science was 

Indeed as slave-owners they were little interested in the 
development of the technique of production, material 
labour being the despised lot of slaves. As organizers of 
political power, navigators, colonizers, merchants — the 
Greeks did not need a detailed study of individual things. 
And as consumers they could confine their attention to out- 
ward appearance. The need for a profound analysis of the 
essential nature of things, which does arise for the craftsman, 
did not confront the enterprising merchant. And the 
political action of the Greeks amounted to a struggle be- 
tween different groups of free peoples, and had no bearing 
on the slave-owning basis of the economic order. At the 
same time .both for their political action and their great 
colonizing ventures, they needed a comprehensive and 
connected world-outlook in which the general outlines of an 
ever-changing and diverse universe might be reflected. This 
world-outlook was supplied by the Greek philosophy of that 
period. But the further development of production and of 
class struggle ever more and more revealed the deficiencies 
of such an outlook ; the study of individual things became 


an ever more pressing problem. Within Greek philosophy 
itself there began the transition to the investigatory stage of 
knowledge — to the stage that dissects a whole into its parts, 
that discriminates individual things from their universal 
connections— to the stage that is, in essence, analytic. 

Very often it is possible accurately to grasp a situation as 
a whole in a first rapid impression. Foreign workers arriving 
in the U.S.S.R., even in a first cursory inspection, can 
apprehend the general character of socialist construction. 
It may even be that in certain directions they can form a 
better estimate than we ourselves as to how far we have 
travelled from capitalism. However, to obtain a real and 
fruitful understanding of the working of our institutions the 
foreigner must penetrate into the details, must understand 
the special task of each separate institution and learn the 
special difficulties of each part of our socialist construction. 

A correct grasp of the whole serves as a guiding principle 
in the examination of the details. The first synthetic stage 
of knowledge prepares one for the study of the parts, gives 
a general orientation for a further analytical investigation. 
Every good manager knows that for the direction of this or 
other undertaking there must be a clear general under- 
standing of the situation. But if he does not go beyond that, 
does not learn the technique of the business by entering 
into its every detail, he is but another " tinkling cymbal." 

That is just how the matter stands in all practical affairs 
and in all questions of knowledge. We must never rest 
content with achieved results, nor stagnate on what is but 
too familiar, nor turn what are but separate stages into a 
whole system ; we, must press forward and strive for an ever 
deeper penetration into actuality and thereby be in a 
position to change it more rapidly and completely. 

At the stage of knowledge we are discussing this deepening 
process was obtained chiefly by separating individual things 
from their general connection and by studying the peculi- 
arities of each. For this there is necessary an accumulation 
of a great quantity of experimental data and observations 
concerning physical phenomena. There is necessary an 


inventory of animals, plants and minerals and then their 
classification — i.e. a comparison and division of phenomena 
into classes and a description of their properties. This task 
was first attempted in the later or Alexandrian period of 
Greek science, it was continued in the Middle Ages and 
considerably developed in the Renaissance. 

The basic problem of knowledge in this phase consisted 
in diverting the attention from general connection and 
change in order to consider everything as isolated and at 
rest and thus to establish its specific, unalterable properties 
which distinguish it from other things, i.e. to study its 
quality. But what one says about an isolated and immobile 
thing amounts to a description of its different aspects and 
properties. The qualitative uniqueness of a thing is given 
in a comprehensive account of its properties. The thing as 
something that possesses determined properties — that is 
what the " object " comes to be in this period of science. 

Certain groups of properties are found in a number of 
different things and characterize them each and all in a 
fundamental way. The same things differ in other, less 
essential properties. On the basis of these more general 
properties a system of classification is created and this in 
turn assists us in our analysis of the characteristics of 
individual things. 

Let us take for example one of the most important 
branches of knowledge in the Middle Ages — alchemy 
(mediaeval chemistry) . The alchemists turned their attention 
to the three basic properties (as they thought) of bodies : 
metallic glitter, combustibility and durability. Every sub- 
stance possesses, in greater or less degree, these properties, 
therefore they characterized each substance by the deter- 
mined degree of these properties. In their ignorance of how 
to disclose the laws according to which things change, the 
alchemists regarded these properties as independent 
elements out of whose combination the different bodies were 
formed. The pure embodiment of metallic glitter, they said, 
was mercury, of combustibility was sulphur, of chemical 
durability was salt. 


• Each property thus became an independent quality, a 
thing in itself, a substance, a force. The alchemists also 
considered that change itself was a kind of force and due 
to a special agent which they called the philosopher's stone, 
the stone of the wise men. For many centuries the exertions 
of the alchemists were directed to the search for this 
philosopher's stone, which, incidentally, was to be the 
means of turning base metal into gold. 

The alchemists were unsuccessful, yet their failures were 
extremely fruitful for the development of science. In their 
researches an enormous mass of experimental material was 
obtained and also an exact knowledge of the real properties 
of many different chemical compounds. But the further the 
accumulation of such practical material went, the more 
clearly were the Hmitations of this stage of science revealed. 
In every department of nature investigation kept revealing 
more and more new properties, and every one of them was 
regarded as a thing in itself, a special aptitude or faculty. 
With such a method there was no difficulty in " explaining " 
any phenomenon — smoke flies upward, because it possesses 
the tendency to fly upward; glass cuts because it possesses 
a cutting force ; opium sends to sleep because it possesses a 
soporific force; a tree has an aptitude for growing, etc., 
etc. . . . Genuine thought was submerged in an immense 
number of mysterious forces, properties, aptitudes and sub- 
stances, of which things were supposed to consist and these 
explained — exactly nothing ! The " explanation " simply 
repeated that which had to be explained, with the mere 
futile addition of such words as " force," " substance," or 
what not. 

The science of the feudal period " inflated " this method 
of considering phenomena and their properties into a com- 
plete world-outlook, and thus created a thoroughly logical 
and ossified system of physics (anti-dialectic) . The whole 
world, so thought the mediaeval metaphysicians, consists of 
a great number of absolutely independent forces and sub- 
stances. Nothing new emerges and there is no development, 
since all changes amount to a simple external uniting and 



disuniting of unchangeable, independent forces. Change 
itself was to them an independent substance and was under- 
stood now in the likeness of a spiritual force, a god or a 
devil, now in the likeness of the philosopher's stone, etc. In 
contradistinction to dialectic, which regards the world as 
a system of flowing processes, connected internally together 
by the general course of development, mediaeval science saw 
only a mechanistic accumulation of independent unalter- 
able things. While dialectic discloses the contradictory 
character of every phenomenon, of every process, mediaeval 
science based its thinking on the principle of empty formal 
identity — combustibility is a hot substance, metallic glitter 
is metallic glitter, i.e. mercury, etc. Every property in itself 
is identical, non- contradictory and unalterable, just like a 
solid substance. It is not surprising that this age is renowned 
for its elaborate and profitless scholasticism, its logic chop- 
ping and endless deductions and the chaos of words that 

The metaphysical limitations of mediaeval science were 
wholly the result of the Hmitations of feudal social practice. 
The parcelling-out and separateness of the feudal estates 
and towns, the low level of the technique of agriculture and 
of trade, the ossification of all social relations — that was the 
material basis that converted the characteristic features of 
one of the stages of social knowledge into a finished meta- 
physical system. It is true the mediaeval trader (and in part 
also the feudal landowner) was more interested than the 
Greek slave-owner in the development of material produc- 
tion, but with the stagnant character of production the 
problems of technique were not those of creating new 
things but of combining and recombining the things they 
had and improving their traditional skill in handling 
materials provided practically ready-made by nature. 

The class interests of the feudalists and masters of work- 
shops, who were seeking in their world-outlook to perpetuate 
feudal limitations, turned this method into an ossified 

But on the soil of feudalism and, at first, by feudal 


methods, there was already being prepared and developed 
the capitalist means of production. The development of 
merchant capital broke up the solidity of the feudal order 
and drove the alchemists on in the pursuit after gold. In 
these attempts — often fraudulent — was expressed the power- 
lessness of feudal culture to resolve the real productive 
problems that confronted men at the end of the Middle 

However, it is not only under the conditions of feudalism 
that we meet with this curious metaphysical practice of 
creating " substances " and forces to explain phenomena. 

This metaphysic of properties has shown a special live- 
liness in bourgeois thought. It has found one characteristic 
expression in the so-called theory of factors. 

To the question why France in Napoleon's time carried 
on wars of conquest, the upholder of the theory of factors 
will answer that in France at that time such a factor as the 
idea of glory and conquest had begun to dominate, an idea 
which Napoleon was active in disseminating. Again, why 
in capitalist countries is there a "surplus " of population 
which cannot find employment ? Because the workers 
are multiplying too quickly, owing to the biological 
"factor" of the growth of the population. Why have 
innumerable wars broken out between the Turks and 
Bulgarians ? Because the factor of national antagonism 
was at work. 

Of course in the stout volumes of learned investigators 
the matter looks much more complicated than as given in 
these examples. But if from the mass of material and pedan- 
tic exposition we pick out the essential method of stating 
and solving these problems we shall see that it amounts to 
nothing else than the " soporific force of opium " and the 
' ' cutting force of glass." 

More or less successful attempts to get beyond the theory 
of factors have been made from time to time by bourgeois 
science but they have never completely succeeded. Latterly, 
in the epoch of the downfall of capitalism, we see a certain 
revival of the metaphysics of isolated properties both in 



social sciences and along the whole fine of bourgeois 

And it is perfectly clear why. When classes and parties 
oppose a radical change of social relations and to this end 
seek after a system of fixed social relations, simple, per- 
manent and ready-made, their ideological weapon is the 
metaphysic of independent properties. 

The ideology of reformism, that strong support of modern 
capitalism, gives not a few clear examples of the utter 
degradation of bourgeois thought, of its return to the 
methods of the Middle Ages. 

Kautsky, for instance, asserts that in the epoch of im- 
perialism there is at work in industrial capitalist countries a 
" tendency" for conquest. So as to avoid war this tendency 
must be opposed by such a factor as a " tendency " to peace, 
a propaganda for peaceful organization of the economic 

Take away from iron its properties of combustibility, add 
in the right proportion metallic glitter and chemical dura- 
bility and you will get gold, said the mediaeval alchemists. 
Karl Kautsky in the same manner proposes to " combine " 
the positive properties of the epoch of imperialism (con- 
centration of production) with a positive property of the 
pre-imperialist epoch (peaceful economic policy) . He com- 
pounds a mischievous and empty Utopia, in which this 
metaphysic of independent forces can only distract the 
working masses from a real understanding of the nature of 
the capitalism that oppresses them. 

Lenin, criticizing the petty-bourgeois dreams of the 
liberals about the eternal preservations of small-scale 
production, wrote: 

" And indeed, how simple it is. All you have to do is 
to take the good things from wherever you can find them 
— and there you are. From mediaeval society ' take ' the 
means of production as the property of the workers, from 
the new (i.e. capitalist) form of society ' take ' one good 
thing from here and another from there. This philosopher 


(Mikhailovsky) looks on social relations purely meta- 
physically, as on a simple, mechanical aggregate of these 
or those institutions, a simple mechanical linking up of 
these or those phenomena. He selects one of these phe- 
nomena — the ownership of the land by the land-holder in 
mediaeval society — and thinks that he can transplant it 
just as he finds it into our quite different form of 
society like transferring a brick from one building to 
another. 3 ' 

But when the peasant does not own his land you have 
as an essential element in the social structure the exploiting 
landlord. Every special feature of a given form of society 
is inseparably connected with the whole of which it is a 
part. These eclectic sociologists never see the intimate con- 
nection of social phenomena. 

We find the same metaphysic of independent properties 
in many pages of the history of Trotskyism. Trotsky was 
always coming out with daring plans for combining various 
desirable things. At the time of the trade-union discussions 
he proposed to transfer the military method of handling 
men, which played a great part in warfare, to the work of 
the unions in industry. 1 By keeping politics and economics 
apart Trotsky again and again shows that he is under the 
influence of this same methodological error and is thinking 
in terms of separate " factors." In Russia, says Trotsky, the 
political factor is strong enough for the construction of 

1 Militarization of Labour. At the end of the civil war Trotsky urged 
that the armies instead of being demobilized should occupy the industrial 
front. He therefore advocated compulsory labour service, making use 
of the apparatus of the War Department, and demanding from the 
workers the same discipline and executive thoroughness which had been 
required in the army. He felt that this form of organization was neces- 
sary if a single economic plan were to be attempted and without such a 
plan socialism would certainly prove impossible. The leaders of the 
Third Army instead of demobilizing their men transferred them to 
labour work and a good deal of clearing up and reconstruction was 
carried through. It was soon made clear, however, that flesh and blood 
could not stand the indefinite continuance of the unwearying effort 
possible in war time. The policy was abandoned and Russia adopted the 
New Economic Policy. 



socialism but the economic factor is not, therefore the con- 
struction of socialism in Russia is impossible. 

In all the examples we have given, we see the same 
features as were analysed above : 

(i) A superficial view that is content with a statement of 
separate properties as they stare one in the face. 

(2) A way of .regarding properties as if they were 
separated from each other. 

(3) An immutability, an identity of the properties in 
different things, which things are considered as different 
external combinations of those properties. 

The basic formal-logical principle of the metaphysics of 
independent properties is that a property is absolutely 
identical with itself. 





1 he question whether this or that property belongs to 
a thing is not at all as simple as appears at the first glance. 
For most people iron is the type of a hard substance, but the 
polisher of precious stones says contemptuously of a bad 
material, " soft as iron." Compared with wood, iron is 
hard, compared with a diamond it is soft. 

There is no absolute hardness or absolute softness in 
itself. The hardness of a thing appears in relation to other 
things ; and according to the things to which it is related 
are its properties thus or otherwise. A workman may for 
many years be regarded as ungifted, good for nothing, but 
if you set him to a job that suits him he may display great 
gifts in relation to it. Rain may be a blessing or a curse; 
it depends on the situation. The deserts that surround the 
valley of the Nile were at an early stage a help to the 
development of the productive forces of Egypt, since they 
acted as a protection from the onslaughts of wild nomads. 
But at a much later stage, when Egypt was ripe for trade- 
relations with other lands, these same deserts became an 
obstacle to further economic growth. 

All properties exist only in determined relations, all 
properties are relative— such is the conclusion to which we 
are led by our knowledge of mutual action. 

The medieval alchemists studied separated properties 
selected at will from the general mutual action of things 
and therefore these properties could appear as something 


absolute and immutable. But once the circle of observa- 
tions was widened and people began to compare a great 
number of properties, studying their changes as well as 
the changing of things themselves, science had to reject 
alchemistic metaphysics. 

And then appeared a new question which the alchemist 
never foresaw : to which of the two {or many) mutually acting 
things does this or that property belong ? The mediaeval scholars 
never doubted that glass possesses a peculiar cutting or 
wounding force. The English scientist, Boyle — representa- 
tive of the new epoch — ridiculed this view and showed 
that the point of the matter does not lie in the glass but in 
the mutual relationship of glass with the determined 
properties of that which it cuts. He proved that sudorific, 
soporific and other medicines do not in any way possess 
corresponding absolute forces or qualities but that their 
action must be explained by their mutual action with the 
organism. However, it is easy to cite mutual action. It is 
far more difficult to determine what part each side plays in 
mutual action and wherein lies the basic cause of the fact 
that this particular mutual action leads to that determined 

All relations are two-sided. If A is related to B, then B, 
too, is related to A. Deserts at different periods influenced 
in different ways the development of Egypt. But wherein 
lies the root of this influence — in the different geographical 
properties of deserts or in the change of the properties of 
Egyptian economics ? 

Things that come into relation mutually display their 
properties one through the other, as if they are reflected in 
each other. The properties of the desert were reflected 
differently in the different stages of Egyptian history and 
conversely the properties of the stages of Egypt's develop- 
ment were reflected in the different influence of the desert. - 
Each side is defined through its relation to the other, each 
side has only a relative definiteness. To the discovery of 
this mutual or reflex relationship Marx and Engels, follow- 
ing Hegel, attributed a very great importance. 


" Such relative definitions," wrote Marx, " are, in 
general, something quite singular. For example, this 
man is a king only because other people are related to 
him as subjects. They however think, on the contrary, 
that they are subjects because he is king." 

Everyone who has looked at the first chapters of Capital 
knows that Marx in his exposition of all the basic questions 
of the theory of value proceeds from the reflex relations of 
exchanged commodities, of commodities and money, and 
of commodity-producers between each other. Marx showed 
up the commodity-fetish and proved that " the property " 
of possessing value, which is ascribed to an article as a 
thing, is, in fact, the expression of a definite social relation. 

The discovery of the relativity of properties was the first 
step of bourgeois science at the beginning of the New Age, 
and it must be said a very significant step. The researches 
of Galileo, of Descartes, Boyle and other natural scientists 
and philosophers dispersed like smoke the doctrine of mys- 
terious forces and qualities held by mediaeval physico- 
chemical science. The " soporific force " of opium became 
an object of universal jest, and Moliere, in his brilliant 
comedies, brought its upholders on to the stage in the roles 
of clowns. 

However, to point to the relativity of properties does not 
in itself explain very much. It sends us from one thing to 
another and from that back to the first, from geography to 
economics and from economics back to geography, and 
gives no single and complete explanation of any phenom- 
enon or any process. It is impossible to exhaust the study 
of properties by the discovery of their relativity. A positive 
working-out of the question is needed. And bourgeois 
science tried to give such a positive doctrine in the theory 
of the so-called primary and secondary qualities. 

First of all the founders of this theory selected a number 
of properties of things (colour, taste, smell, sound) which 
we receive directly as sensations, and explained them as 
existing only in relation to our sense organs, as subjective. 



Those are the so-styled secondary qualities. The rest — 
the so-styled primary qualities — were considered by them 
as belonging to the things themselves, as existing in objec- 
tive actuality. Secondary properties appear as the relations 
of primary properties, to our perception. 

Does a tickling " force " really exist in a tickling hand ? — 
Galileo used to ask. The hand touches our body, and this 
contact evokes in us a peculiar sensation, which is not at 
all like the hand or its movement. The movement of the 
hand, its making of contact, its motion along our body is 
a primary objective quality, the sensation of tickling is 
secondary, subjective. 

Warmth is not a peculiar quality but a movement of 
particles in space, their simple motion, which is reflected 
in our consciousness as a secondary quality, as the sensation 
of warmth. 

Primary qualities are quite few. They are" the spatial 
form and position of bodies, movement, the contact of 
bodies and therefore solidity. All other differences of 
phenomena, colour, sound, scent, taste, relate to secondary 
qualities. These properties are subjective and in no meas- 
ure reflect processes that are found in objective actuality. 

Everything in nature is made up of non-qualitative, 
colourless, soundless matter and every difference between 
phenomena may be ascribed to the mechanics of identical 
particles of matter and to their combinations and move- 
ments in space. 

In their conflict with the metaphysics of properties the 
most progressive tendencies of bourgeois science in the 
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries took up the position 
of mechanistic materialism. In comparison with the 
mediaeval world-outlook this was a big step forward. 
Instead of occupying itself with a piling up of mysterious 
forces and isolated, utterly inexplicable properties knowledge 
turned to the study of movement (although in its simple 
form, namely the study of mechanistic movement). Instead 
of " explaining " the lifting of water in a pump by saying 
that " nature abhors a vacuum," they began to investigate 



the real mechanical processes of the movements of liquids, 
and as a result Torricelli discovered atmospheric pressure. 
They ceased to attribute to an organism vegetable, motive, 
nutrimental and all sorts of other forces and aptitudes but 
directed their attention to the study of mechanical move- 
ments in the life-activity of an organism even though these 
were, at first, only the most elementary motions in the 
body, and again as a result Harvey discovered the circula- 
tion of the blood. 

The new point of view proved very fruitful and was the 
basis of a large number of valuable discoveries. Rene 
Descartes, one of the founders of mechanistic philosophy 
and the greatest of French philosophers of the seventeenth 
century, was right when he wrote about his methodological 
principles : 

" by them I perceived it to be possible to arrive at 
knowledge highly useful in life; and in room of the 
speculative philosophy usually taught in the schools, to 
discover a practical, by means of which, knowing the 
force and action of fire, water, air, the stars, the heavens, 
and all the other bodies that surround us, as distincdy 
as we know the various crafts of our artisans, we might 
also apply them in the same way to all the uses to which 
they are adapted, and thus render ourselves the lords 
and possessors of nature." 1 

In these words of Descartes, besides his deliberate and 
severe contrasting of the method of" practical philosophy " 
with the " speculative and scholastic philosophy " of the 
Middle Ages, there is reflected also the connection of the 
new forms of thinking with modern productive practice of 
the industrial type (although Descartes was doubtless 
unaware of this connection). The fruitfulness of mechanistic 
natural science came from its close connection with this 
productive practice. 

The industrial production of that time was pre-eminently 
the direct action of the workman's tool. People were 
1 Descartes, Discourse on Method, p. 49 (Everyman). 



interested not in the changes of the substance, but in those 
mechanical devices by which change was evoked. All the 
" machines " of that period were basically simple combina- 
tions of the same lever, block, windlass, inclined plane and 
screw which had been known from ancient times. And so 
the natural science of that period was preoccupied with 
the investigation of the movement of bodies (and of 
systems of bodies) under the influence of forces applied to 
them, with the conditions of the equihbrium of bodies, the 
movement of liquids, etc. 

Chemical properties of matter were " explained " 
mechanically, vital phenomena were " explained " by 
analogy with the actions of mechanical automata. For 
instance, the following explanation of the difference in the 
tastes of nitre and nitric acid (which was then called 
" spirit of nitre ") appeared " clear and evident " to 
Spinoza : 

" Particles of nitre, if laid on the tongue, he on it in 
consequence of their quiet condition with their flat sides 
down and by this means the pores of the tongue are 
closed — which is the cause of the sensation of cold. But 
if these particles are lain on the tongue in a state of 
excitation and movement [Spinoza here has in mind 
" spirit of nitre," which, in his opinion, is made up of the 
same particles as nitre but is found " in a state of excitation 
and movement' 1 ] then they will fall on it with their 
sharp edges, will pierce into its pores— just as a needle 
if it falls on the tongue will evoke different sensations, 
this difference depending on whether the contact is made 
with the sharp or the long surface." 

The passion for "automatic explanations at the ruling 
courts of the seventeenth century was a similar reflection 
of the view, general in " enlightened " circles, that the 
properties of every whole, including living organisms, must 
find their explanation in the mechanical relations of its 

The roots of bourgeois thought in this age are to be found 



in the mechanical connections which underlay the manu- 
facturing and productive processes and appeared to be 
fundamental. Thus mechanism became the model for all 
knowledge and in the philosophy of the time we have the 
" reproduction in thought " of the objective connections 
of things. 

Whence the relative historic value of the mechanistic 
method but also its one-sidedness and its Kmitations. Valu- 
able though the mechanical discoveries of Galileo, Torri- 
celli and others were, yet their tendency to ascribe all the 
diverse phenomena of nature and society to mechanical 
relations prevented them from giving a correct solution of 
the problem of properties. 

This new one-sidedness became a universal principle and 
so, inevitably, a new form of metaphysical theory. The 
whole world appeared as divided into two independent 
parts, the mechanical properties of matter, and the sub- 
jective qualities of experience. The mutability and diversity 
of qualities were regarded by the mechanists as secondary 
properties, i.e. as subjective appearance, as empty illusion. 
The real world, since it exists in itself in its own primary 
properties, is from their standpoint ever the same and 
unchangeable. Elements of matter are identical and 
unchangeable. All their relations are attributed to external 
combinations in space and to simple mechanical contact. 
In the real world there is no development, there is only 
movement in one and the same circle. There is no self- 
movement of matter but only a mechanical displacement 
of it under the influence of external impact. The meta- 
physic of absolutely unchangeable properties gives place to 
a metaphysic of absolute, quality-less particles and their 
mutual relations. 

And what about properties ? How does mechanism 
solve this problem ? 

If all particles of matter are identical, then a difference 
of things according to properties is possible only as a result 
of a different relation between the particles. Things are 
differentiated according to their external form in space, 


by the different disposition of their particles in relation to 
each other. Things are differentiated according to the 
mechanical movement of their particles, i.e. once again 
according to the external relations between the particles. 
The primary, actually objective, properties of liquidity and 
of solidity are determined only by the greater or lesser 
connectedness of their particles in their relative movements. 

All things are distinguished only by their external 
mechanical construction. Everything consists of elements 
and their relations, say the mechanists, elements are with- 
out qualities, are merely carriers of relations. Relations 
emerge as the properties of different things. 

As we see, mechanistic materialism " resolves " the 
problem extremely simply. After showing that a property 
is relative it goes on to declare that a property amounts 
to a relation, and finally attributes all the differences of 
things to external mechanistic relations. 

Secondary qualitatively different properties are also only 
relations, that is to say they are the relations of quality-less 
things to our sense organs. Determined movements of 
particles, taken in relation to our consciousness, give a 
sensation of warmth ; other slighter movements — a sensa- 
tion of light or a variety of colours. An animal is a machine 
and only a machine, but the relation of this machine to 
our perception gives an impression of a living organism, 
etc., etc. 

And so by distinguishing two kinds of relations — firstly 
the relation of particles of matter among themselves and 
secondly the relation of their combinations to the organs of 
sense — mechanists divided all phenomena into primary and 
secondary qualities. From the point of view of mechanism 
the task of knowledge consists in this — to expose the fal- 
lacious appearance of secondary qualities and to attribute 
all the phenomena of nature to primary mechanical 

The French materialists of the eighteenth century applied 
the mechanistic method widely and were ever indicating 
the countless number of causes external to each other that 


conditioned social development. For example, the intro- 
duction of a new law is determined by a multitude of facts 
amongst which an important role is played by the action of 
the legislator, and this action depends on his disposition, 
which in its turn may be decided by the weather, and Paris 
weather has changed because a simoom was blowing in 
Africa and so on — endlessly. 

We have taken one chain of facts, but in every social 
process there is an infinite number of them and they all 
mutually interact. Do you try, using this method, to find 
out in what direction the social structure of a given country 
is changing. The French materialists used to argue as to 
what was the determining factor in the mutual action of 
geographical environment and social development. They 
disputed whether the opinions of people were determined 
by facts, by the social structure, or, conversely, whether 
social structure depends on human opinions. And what 
emerged from their discussions was the discovery that one 
could draw from the mechanistic view-point an endless 
number of proofs both for and against any resolution of 
these questions. 

The mechanistic doctrine of properties as relations of 
separate particles leads to an absolute relativism on the 
basis of which it is impossible to say anything definite on 
the properties of anything, since these properties are its 
relations with an infinite number of other things. " A crazy 
atom "*■ which has flown into the head of a lawgiver can 
change the course of world history — so said the materialists 
of the eighteenth century. The atom itself does not possess 
this .." property," the property emerges from the relation 
of the atom to countless other particles, and who will say 
beforehand whether this " property " will emerge or not ? 
Mechanists themselves not venturing to do so come to this 
conclusion — it is impossible to know anything definite about 
concrete things except the abstract truth that they are 
subordinate to the general laws of mechanics. 

1 " Crazy Atom." The introduction of any factor or element into a 
situation which leads to an unpredictable result. 


And pure relativism and agnosticism, as we know, are 
the main support of subjectivism. Mechanistic materialism, 
because of its metaphysical limitations, leads directly to 
subjective idealism. And the distance between the two is 
by no means so very great. The mechanists themselves show 
this transition to idealism in their own doctrine of the 
subjectivity of" secondary " qualities. Indeed by the asser- 
tion that qualitative differences of things and qualitatively 
different properties exist only in our consciousness, the 
mechanists create a gulf between objective actuality and 
our representation of it. 

We must turn away, they say, from the illusory appear- 
ance of sensations, we must thrust it away with the help of 
abstract reasoning — just as we pull back a curtain when 
we want to know what is hidden behind it — and then only 
shall we make contact with the actual, objective world of 
pure mechanics, the world of the soundless, invisible 
movement of quality-less particles. 

The sense data derived from an object — mechanism 
teaches — by no means reflect it, they only correspond to it. 
As a hieroglyph is a sign and bears very little resemblance 
to the object it denotes, so also our sense data only corre- 
spond to a determined object, are only its hieroglyph. We 
see a red-faced man, we see a pale-faced man. But really 
each is only a determined combination of quality-less 
particles. But evidently the motion of the particles of the 
one is somehow distinct from the motion of the particles of 
the other, and so to each of these people there corresponds 
a different " hieroglyph " in the likeness of our sensations. 
The separating of properties into primary and secondary is 
inevitably connected with the theory of hieroglyphs, with 
the theory of the symbolic denotation of objective actuality 
by subjective, deceptive representations. 

But can we stop here ? Why must we admit that the 
conception of so-called primary properties, of the move- 
ment and the spatial forms of bodies, reflects objective 
actuality exactly as it really exists ? Our knowledge of these 
properties comes only through sensations. If we regard 


sense impressions as hieroglyphs, we must acknowledge the 
conceptions of mechanics not as exact copies, but only as 
signs of an unknown objective actuality. 

Plekhanov, who defended the hieroglyphic theory, follow- 
ing certain bourgeois scientists, came sometimes in the turns 
and twists of his thinking to the theory that even space and 
time are hieroglyphs of unknown aspects of an unknown 
objective world. 

So we see the attribution of properties to external rela- 
tions leads to absolute relativism and subjectivism. 

" What is truth ? " the sages and prophets of bourgeois 
individualism ask with haughty scepticism, reflecting the 
" satisfaction " of the bourgeois soul with what exists at 
the moment and its dread of everything new and revolu- 
tionary. With a sceptical criticism of knowledge and a dis- 
belief in objective truth they seek to defend their bourgeois 
objective actuality — capitalism— ^from every authentic 
revolutionary criticism. In this epoch of the domination of 
the capitalist forms of society bourgeois philosophy snatches 
at all the weak reactionary features of mechanism, at 
relativism, subjectivism, at abstract metaphysics, and inflates 
these features into a complete subjective-idealistic world- 
outlook. Everything is relative, only the unalterable par- 
ticles of matter that move in space are absolute — so say 
the mechanists. 

Subjective idealism by denying the objective existence 
of matter itself, even of the ultimate particles of the mech- 
anists, and by denying also the reality of space, drives 
the relativity of mechanistic materialism to its furthest 

The primary mechanistic qualities are objective. The 
secondary qualities are subjective; they exist only in our 
consciousness, only as our sensation. That is what mechanism 

Subjective idealism by setting out from this very sub- 
jectivity of secondary qualities and reducing primary ones 
to them, in turn reduces mechanism into pure subjectivism 
■ — there exist only our sensations, all things including their 



so-called primary qualities are sensation-complexes com- 
bined together by the mind. 

The upholders of mechanism by attributing all properties 
to external relations are powerless to disclose the real basis 
of the complex interweaving of mutual-acting things. Sub- 
jective idealists, by deepening and further developing the 
metaphysic of the merely external connectedness of phe- 
nomena, turn the vice of mechanism into an idealistic 
virtue ; they assert that phenomena have no objective basis 
and therefore any complex can have any explanation ; there 
are no right or wrong theories — the choice of this or that 
explanation depends wholly on the subjective point of view, 
on " mental convenience." Any explanations are good for 
those whom they please, and there is no truth outside 
arbitrary human opinions. 

Between mechanistic materialism and subjective idealism 
there is a big difference. The one admits the existence of 
matter, the other denies it. The one connects things by real 
mechanical relations, the other acknowledges .things and 
connections only as " facts of consciousness." But relativism 
and false metaphysics make up the general features of both 
philosophical tendencies. 

That is a fact. According to both schools properties do 
not flow out of the internal nature of things, they amount 
to external relations ; the one and the same metaphysic of 
elements sundered from each other and of purely external 
connections leads both these schools (and also others) to 
absolute relativism, and deflects them from the struggle for 
a unitary, eternally developing objective truth. A close kin- 
ship between mechanism and subjective idealism is undeni- 
able ; between the two there exists a deep mutual bond.^ 

The mechanists, by laying claim to absolute objective 
truth and in the name of that truth proving the deceptive- 
ness of those qualities perceived by the senses, do them- 
selves proceed to extreme subjectivism. 

Thus the mechanists have turned the relativity of pro- 
perties into an " absolute " and in contrast with the meta- 
physic of feudalism have identified properties with the 


external relations of quality-less particles to each other 
(primary qualities) and to our sense organs (secondary 
qualities). Thus they have opened the way to the blind- 
alley of relativism and subjective-idealistic religiosity. 

The further development of social practice, now within 
the framework of capitalism, set knowledge a new task. It 
was necessary to overcome the limitations of mechanism 
so as to open the way to the study of the qualitatively 
unique forms of movement in nature and society. The 
development of physics, chemistry, biology and the social 
sciences demanded a new methodological system. The 
problems which mechanism set but did not resolve had to 
be resolved on new lines. In severe pain, science began to 
bring to birth the dialectic method. 

But only in the ideology of the proletariat, only in the 
works of Marx, Engels and Lenin did knowledge emerge 
on to the wide road of the conscious and logical working out 
of dialectical materialism. Only on this new level did the 
problem of quality and property which had been set but 
not resolved by the metaphysical systems of the past receive 
its actual solution. 



Jjy the beginning of the nineteenth century, it was 
no longer possible to see in the workshop of the craftsman 
and in his manual skill -a model of the domination of man 
over the forces of nature as imagined by Descartes in the 
seventeenth century. The development of capitalism 
brought with it a radical upheaval in the entire productive 
activity of society. 

" The bourgeoisie, during its rule of scarce one hundred 
years, has created more massive and more colossal pro- 
ductive forces than have all preceding generations to- 
gether. Subjection of Nature's forces to man, machinery, 
application of chemistry to industry and agriculture, 
steam-navigation, railways, electric telegraphs, clearing 
of whole continents for cultivation, canalization of rivers, 
whole populations conjured out of the ground — what 
earlier century had even a presentiment that such pro- 
ductive forces slumbered in the lap of social labour ? ' 3l 

The dream of the rising bourgeoisie of subduing nature, 
of making use of the " forces of fire, water, air, etc." 
(Descartes) was coming true in a remarkable degree. How- 
ever, as often happens the realization was not at all like the 
anticipation. The new world when revealed to man in his 
productive action had very little in common with the 
colourless picture of mechanical nature given by Descartes. 
1 Marx and Engels, Communist Manifesto. 


The invention of engines acquainted man with the possi- 
bility of converting one form of energy, thermal, electrical, 
mechanical, chemical, into another, and proved in practice 
that movement is by no means of the same mechanical 
pattern as had been represented. The development of 
chemistry and of chemical production still further displayed 
the great variety of nature. The possibility of selective 
breeding, of producing new varieties of plants and animals, 
had been demonstrated in horticulture and farming. The 
theory of Darwin, which was largely based on these facts, 
showed without any of the mystical " vital forces " of medi- 
evalism that a living organism is not a machine, that vital 
phenomena can by no means be accounted for by mechan- 
ical laws. The earlier social theories had taken the 
characteristics proper to the individual craftsman type of 
economy and treated them as the eternal properties of 
society as such. But new social groups were differentiated 
as bourgeois production developed and their relations were 
ever more clearly seen to be the fundamental characteristics 
of the changed economic and social order. 

The world was seen to be much more alive and much 
more diverse than the mechanists of the seventeenth and 
eighteenth centuries and their followers thought. 

The more fundamental are the changes that we make in 
things, the more deeply does our knowledge penetrate into 
their internal nature. The recasting of nature in production 
is quite distinct from the external action of men on passive 
inert matter. In the work of a craftsman external mecha- 
nical working of the material still predominates, but the 
chief success of industrialization is due to its exploitation of 
. the forces belonging to nature on a much greater scale than 

" He (the worker) uses the mechanical, physical, 
chemical properties of bodies with the view of making 
them, as forces, act on other bodies in conformity with his 
own purpose." 1 

1 Capital. 


The line of the development of production under 
capitalism is in fact this — the capitalist seeks more and more 
to replace the labour of the worker by the movements of the 
material things themselves, the movements of the lifeless 
means of production. 

cc Reason is just as cunning as it is powerful," wrote 
Hegel. " The cunning consists generally of that inter- 
vening action which forces objects, in conformity with 
their own nature, to act on each other and undergo a 
mental transformation, and while it is not directly in- 
volved in that process, none the less attains the realization 
of its own purpose." 

What under capitalism emerges as the basic means of 
producing relative surplus value and is therefore always 
working in a primitive unconscious and somewhat dis- 
guised form, now appears in the period of proletarian dic- 
tatorship and under socialism as the conscious guiding 
principle of all society, which, moreover, is liberating itself 
from the role of a living appendage to a dead machine. 

By setting up a dam against the current of a river, we 
make the latter produce an electric current. The energy of 
falling water, the chemical energy of solid and liquid fuel 
convey us in a tramcar or a motor-car, or set factory wheels 
in motion. The automatization and mechanization of pro- 
duction denote man's ever increased usage of the forces of 
nature itself. 

Everything in the world — said Descartes — is in 
mechanical movement. By this he meant that the source of 
motion is to be found in the forces that mechanically impel 
a thing from outside. The more developed practice of 
material production and of class struggle makes evident 
the activity of things themselves, discloses the changes 
within them, and reveals their self movement. 

The principle of the self movement of matter, as we know 
from the previous chapter, is one of the basic principles of 
logical materialism, one of the basic propositions of the 


dialectical theory of development. The discovery of this 
principle and its demonstration along the whole line of 
science and practice puts in quite a new light the problem 
of our knowledge of reality and our power to change it. 
The changing of things is by no means the same as the re- 
combination of things in different variants and proportions, 
as the mediaeval seeker after gold thought and as the 
alchemistic " doctors of modern capitalism " also think, nor 
is it a simple changing of outward relations, as thought and 
think the mechanists. 

In the study of a thing in its changes and also in the 
changes wrought in it by our practical activities, we must 
proceed from the thing itself. 

" The thing itself must be scrutinized in its relations and 
its development," wrote Lenin, formulating the first of the 
three basic elements of dialectic. This thesis was developed 
in detail by Lenin under the following heads : 

(1) objectivity of scrutiny (not examples, not varia- 
tions, but the thing in itself) ; 

(2) the whole aggregate of the various relations of 
this thing to others; 

(3) the development of this thing (or phenomenon), 
its proper movement, its characteristic form of life. 

The revolutionary practice of the proletariat in contra- 
distinction to Utopian socialism is a wide application and 
development of this principle. All utopianism is meta- 
physical. Utopians in trying to recast society do not proceed 
from the development proper to it, or from those motive 
forces which are created by the capitalist order itself, but 
from a " good " plan, which (quite fortuitously for society) 
was devised one fine day by a gifted man. For the realization 
of their plans the Utopians appeal to the representatives of 
the aristocratic and the bourgeois state and to different 
members of the exploiting classes, reckoning to evoke in 
them those philanthropic feelings which by no means flow 
out of their objective class position. 



Their metaphysical and idealistic approach and their 
lack of contact with the movement of objective actuality 
make their efforts impotent and ridiculous. 

" The objective world pursues its own course," and 
human practice which is confronted by this objective world 
meets difficulties in realizing its aim and even stumbles on 

In this state of affairs " the will of man and his own practice 
hinder the attainment of his aims — because they separate 
themselves from knowledge and do not acknowledge ex- 
ternal actuality as truly existing (as objective truth). We 
need a union of knowledge and practice " (Lenin). 

If our action is not to be without result it must be 
included in the movement of the object itself. Only by 
understanding the object in its self-movement can we find 
the point of departure for changing it. 

In this lies the revolutionary force of the theoretical studies 
of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin. The wide range and 
effectiveness of Stalin's formulations of practical policy, his 
directives to the Soviet Government, do not merely express 
the clash between a revolutionary will and a resistant 
objective reality as some misguided socialists believe. Stalin 
always proceeds from a dialectical study of conditions, from 
an accurate summing up of each new situation, from a 
careful correlation of class forces. And that is precisely why 
his utterances show up so mercilessly the blunders of those 
who are continually advocating capitulation before diffi- 
culties ; that is why he is able to lay before the Party and the 
whole mass of workers a wide prospect of successful appli- 
cation of revolutionary creative energy. 

The heroes of " left phraseology '^ show a Utopian 
approach to actuality. In 1927 the Central Committee of 
the Party, noting the perspectives of revolutionary 

■'■■Left phraseology. Lenin exposed those " terribly revolutionary " 
socialists who refused any kind of compromise, were impatient with the 
slow-moving masses and talked of immediate revolution in spite of the 
immaturity of the situation. He further pointed out that their ' ' Leftism ' ' 
seldom went beyond speech-making. (See Lenin, "Left-Wing" Com- 
munism, An Infantile Disorder.) 


movement for the next few years and basing their^ con- 
siderations on the statistics of the growth of world capitalist 
production, recorded their conviction that there was at that 
time a period of relative stability in capitalism. This was 
indeed the case and it was not until 1929 that this period 
came to its close. Zinoviev was one of those who treated 
this analysis with contempt. He argued that it was more 
necessary to gauge the revolutionary spirit of the workers 
than the world output of coal and iron. 

By closing his eyes to the objective fact of the stabiliza- 
tion of capitalism, Zinoviev supported the German ultra- 
" lefts," who were calling for immediate revolutionary 
action, although at that time the predisposing conditions 
were insufficient. One can only summon the masses to the 
barricades when faced by an immediate revolutionary 
situation, i.e. an extreme degree of economic and political 
crisis in the old order. 

" It is impossible to 'make' a revolution Revolutions 

grow out of crises and culminations of history that are 
objectively ripened (i.e. that are independent of party or 

classes)." 1 

Of course a revolution does not come about without 
the organized activity of a revolutionary class, " the old 
government does not fall unless it is dropped." All history 
is made up of the action of people, but this action is capable 
of making a revolutionary change only when it reflects 
the self movement of the social order, the development 
of objective actuality itself. In all the practice of the pro- 
letariat, in all its great and " little " affairs, we find the 
application and confirmation of the Leninist principle: 
In knowledge and action we need " an objective scrutiny, 
not examples, not variations, but the thing in itself"; 
in knowledge and action is disclosed " the development 
of this particular thing— its own proper movement, its 

own life." 

The disclosure of the activity of things, of their sell 
movement, demonstrates that things are by no means 
1 Lenin, Collapse of Second International. 


fixed and constant as the metaphysicians think and as 
sometimes seems in experience. 

" — the great basic thought that the world is not to 
be comprehended as a complex of ready-made things, 
but as a complex of processes, in which the things appar- 
ently stable no less than their mind-images in our heads, 
the concepts, go through an uninterrupted change of 
coming into being and passing away, in which, in spite 
of all temporary retrogression, a progressive development 
asserts itself in the end." 1 

In nature there are no unchangeable things, all nature 
is made up of processes. At first glance this thought seems 
strange and evokes many doubts. How are we to reconcile 
this formula of Engels with daily experience in which we 
deal with objects that are stable and unchanged for our 
experience ? If everything is so absolutely changeable 
and fluid, how can we find in the world any definite stable 
differences ? If there is no stability then there is no definite- 
ness in any thing. Thus — says the subjective idealist — 
every definiteness is conditional, it is introduced by our 
consciousness into the flow of sensations. Our mental 
equipment makes us interpret sensation complexes in 
different ways, but all differences and distinctions exist 
only within our consciousness. 

The mechanist, Sarabyanov, reasons in the same way. 
From absolute fluidity and mutability he deduces the 
conditionality and subjectivity of every definiteness : 
" Our relativity is absolute, because all flows and changes ; 
there is no point of rest except as conditioned by us, and 
of course we are not scared of relativism." The daring 
Sarabyanov is not scared of absolute relativism and goes 
straight to idealistic conclusions- — every state of rest, every 
stability is " conditioned by us," i.e. by the subject, and 
therefore all differences too are subjective. The living 
man, the corpse, death, are processes. In these there is no 
1 Engels, Ludwig Fewrbach, p. 54. 


stability; to distinguish them is only possible conditionally, 
only by introducing definiteness out of the subject. " Man- 
kind in its practice is conditioned to understand ' living 
man ' as a being with one kind of processes, a corpse as 
a being with another kind of processes." " Death itself 
is a conditioned notion," wrote Sarabyanov in another 

All these dicta of Sarabyanov are directly connected 
with his negation of objective truth and are undoubtedly 
subjective idealism, but are not we ourselves inclining 
in that direction when we acknowledge all things as a 
process, are we not pouring water on the idealistic mill 
of absolute relativism ? Not at all ! All these subjective 
conclusions of Sarabyanov flow out of his purely meta- 
physical approach to the understanding of what com- 
prises the stability of things. 

The qualitative differences between the solid, liquid 
and gaseous states of a substance are perfectly definite, 
but this definiteness is not a stability of dead rest, 
as metaphysicians think, but a stability of types of 
movement, a definiteness of different forms of molecular 

Molecules in their turn consist of still smaller particles — 
atoms, which also are in motion, and atoms consist of 
constantly moving electrons. And according to the latest 
theory the electrons themselves are nuclear centres of 
special wave processes, comparable with those which 
give us concerts on the wireless, and with those we call 
light. It appears that at the basis of stable things are to be 
found wave processes. It is quite clear that science will 
not remain at this point, that the investigation into the 
" depth " of matter will go further. But there is no doubt 
that the discovery of each new qualitatively distinct stage 
of matter will be, as hitherto, a discovery of a new form of 

What is this " movement " ? The mechanist, as we know, 
will say that movement is the displacement of a body in 
space and that objectively only mechanical displacements 


exist. It is obvious from what has been said that we dis- 
agree with this. The struggle for the mastery of the self- 
movement of the forces of nature and society (the latter 
consisting of the class struggles characteristic of the higher 
stages of social development) have disclosed a whole array 
of qualitatively unique types of movement, among which 
mechanical movement is only a very simple form. 

" Every movement includes in itself mechanical 
movement and the rearrangement to a greater or lesser 
degree of the particles of matter. To understand these 
mechanical movements is the first task of science, but 
only the first. Mechanical movement by no means ex- 
hausts movement in general. Movement is not by any 
means just a 'movement,' a simple change of place, it 
is in hyper-mechanical realms a change of quality too." 1 

" Movement as applied to matter, is change in general" which 
comprises an infinite number of concrete aspects of change. 

The movement of molecules in solid, liquid and gaseous 
bodies does not by any means amount to their simple 
change of position. This movement is latent heat, which 
has its qualitatively peculiar laws. The uniting and dis- 
uniting of atoms into molecules is a qualitatively unique 
chemical process. The movement of electrons in a metal 
wire gives us an electric current. Wave processes in the 
ether are of an electro-magnetic character. 

The vital processes of an organism, the development 
of society, the thought of man are all qualitatively unique 
processes, which it is quite impossible to reduce to simple 
movements of particles. 

However, it is wrong to suppose that all forms of move- 
ment exist independently of each other and only make 
external contacts. On the contrary they mutually penetrate. 

" Every one of the higher forms of movement is con- 
nected always and of necessity with real mechanical 

1 Engels, Anti-Duhring. 


(external or molecular) movement, just as similarly 
the higher forms of movement produce at the same time 
other aspects of movement; chemical action is always 
accompanied by changes of temperature and electrical 
action; organic life is impossible without mechanical, 
molecular, chemical, thermal, electrical and other 
changes. But the presence of these collateral forms does 
not exhaust the essence of the main form in each case." 1 

It still has in addition to these constituent movements 
its own unique character. 

Harvey discovered the movement of the blood— circula- 
tion. This was for his time a very important discovery. 
Without circulation, without contraction of the muscles, 
an animal cannot exist. Breathing and digestion compre- 
hend a whole range of chemical changes. But in none of 
these is included the specific quality of an organism, its 
uniqueness. The movement characteristic for an organism 
is the ceaseless changing of organic substances — a process 
of combustion, dissolution and renovation of living matter, 
a process of assimilation of nourishment, whereby the fabric 
of the body is continuously being woven. On the basis of 
this process arise all other processes that are peculiar to 
the organism — growth, struggle with the beginnings of 
morbid conditions, reproduction, etc. Biological changes 
comprehend in themselves other forms of movement which 
are " collateral " to the unique vital processes of the 

In the interlacing of a number of distinct processes 
there is always a determined species of movement which 
embraces all the others, subordinates them to itself, and is 
characteristic of the thing as a whole, constitutes its unique- 
ness, its distinction from other things, forms the basis of its 

An animal will die, i.e. will cease to be an animal, 
will be turned into a heap of decaying albumens if by 
interrupting its breathing we stop certain organic changes 
1 Engels, Dialectic of Nature. 


even for a short time. An organism is a qualitatively 
unique process; without this process there is no organism. 
In just the same way the various forms of society are living, 
fluid and qualitatively unique processes. Proletarian 
dictatorship exists only in the process of class struggle, 
in the process of building socialism, in the process of 
abolishing classes; Its stability and its qualitative defmite- 
ness are exactly comprehended within the definite form 
of class-struggle. " Proletarian dictatorship is a prolonga- 
tion of class struggle in new forms," wrote Lenin. This 
form of movement — a struggle ever intensifying in the 
process of abolishing classes — makes up the inalienable 
definiteness of the soviet order. 

The process of socialist industrialization is a form of 
struggle with both internal and external class enemies. 
The Right-opportunists did not understand that. In their 
fear of the difficulties of the reconstruction period they 
proposed to suspend the class struggle, to reduce the pres- 
sure on the kulak, to weaken the control over the middle 
peasantry, to slacken the tempo of industrialization. 
If the Party were to listen to the Right-opportunists, if 
the working class were to cut short its struggle against 
the exploiting classes and no longer to direct the peasantry, 
proletarian dictatorship would cease to be proletarian 
dictatorship and capitalism would be re-established. 

It is impossible to stop the movement of matter. By 
stopping or delaying the socialist offensive we inevitably 
call into existence new forms of capitalist activity, encour- 
age their growth and allow the offensive to pass over into 
their hands. Interrupting social movement in one form, 
we evoke it in another. The Right-opportunists did not 
understand the dialectic of movement and became the 
mouthpiece of the kulak opposition ; objectively, therefore, 
they were counter-revolutionists. 

We laid down at the beginning of this chapter that 
to every thing there belongs internally a special type of 
movement. In the exposition following we drew one very 
important conclusion; the movement of a thing— its 


self-movement— defines its internal nature, is its unique- 
ness, its quality. Engels was right: the world consists of 
processes, of qualitatively unique movements of matter. 
The quality of a thing is given by the particular kind of movement 
that is fundamental to it. 

This proposition of materialistic dialectic has great 
importance for the theory of knowledge and for the entire 
world-outlook. It leaves no place for mysterious isolated 
and unchangeable properties and forces, it rejects the 
representation of the world as a dead mechanism. 

In spite of the metaphysic of properties the qualities 
of material things are now deprived of every mystery. 
We are enabled to study them as fully determined, exactly 
distinguished forms of movement. 

The mechanists notwithstanding, variety and vitality 
exist, are. not mere subjective representations ; matter by 
its own proper movement creates countless shades of 
qualitative differences. And however rich and many-sided 
our representations may be, the copy of the actual world 
in our consciousness will always be immeasurably more 
abstract, poorer, more dead, than the actual life of material 

The mechanists in their conflict with the metaphysic of 
properties rightly pointed out the unscientific character of 
representing the world as an aggregation of qualities inde- 
pendent of each other. But they themselves failed to under- 
stand wherein lies the unity of matter. They sought the 
unity of matter in identity of particles, in saying that matter 
is everywhere and always the same. In practice such 
" unity " leads to the splitting up of nature into particles 
externally indifferent to each other. The actual unity of 
the world lies in the materiality of all its qualitatively 
different forms, in their continual vanishing and appear- 
ance. A man, a very simple living organism, an inorganic 
substance— all are qualitatively different stages of one and 
the same ascending scale of material development. 

The unity of the world exists in variety. The general 
connection is realized through the qualitative differences of 



separate things. This dialectic of the general and the par- 
ticular, of unity and diversity, was unattainable by the 
mechanists. And yet it is just in this that we find the key to 
disclose the relations and connections in nature, and so 
provide the basis for a right understanding of the mutual 
connection of qualities. 





Quality is the inalienable and specific mark of a thing 
oran event. It is inalienable because without it the thing 
ceases to exist as that given thing. It is specific because it 
distinguishes that thing from other things. 

The question arises, wherein lies this uniqueness, how- 
can we give a definition of a given quality. 

Moliere, with good reason, ridiculed the mediaeval 
savants. Their explanation of " soporific action " as due 
to " soporific force," and of soporific force as due to 
" soporificness " are indeed extremely vapid and laughable. 
But in what lies the root of this error of the mediaeval 
scholars ? It lies in their determination to find a definition 
of an isolated quality apart from all relations. Try to define 
any quality without alluding to some other or implying, to 
however small a degree, its relation with something else, 
and inevitably you will find that you have fallen into the 
plight of Moliere's " sage." 

The quality of a thing can only be understood by dis- 
tinguishing it from other qualities. Thus in the very category 
of quality there is implied a relationship with something 
else, a distinction from it. It is impossible to define a thing 
without indicating its differences, impossible to say what a 
given quality resembles without indicating, however faintly, 
that which it does not resemble. 

A lake is characterized by a certain quality, dry land has 
another quality. But we include in our definition of a lake 



the fact that it is surrounded on all sides by dry land. 
If a man utters his views on any question he cannot 
express what he is asserting without indicating that with 
which he disagrees, that which he denies. 

In every definition of the quality of a thing affirmation 
and negation are indissolubly connected. One of the great- 
est materialists, Spinoza, expressed this thought in the 
following aphorism : " Every definition is a negation." 
All the knowledge of one quality is indissolubly con- 
nected with its limitation by other qualities, by that which 
the given quality does not resemble— its negation. Hegel, 
Marx and Lenin, all stressed the correctness of this idea. 

And so a definition must include in itself an indication of 
the discriminating relations of the given quality to another. 
Yet this is by no means so easy as may seem at the first 
glance. It so happens there exists in the world an endless 
number of things from which the given thing differs. And 
are we really expected to enumerate all these differences ? 
Clearly they cannot all be of the same importance for the 
definition of the given thing, and their simple enumeration 
would do nothing except confuse. 

What is the way to disclose the qualitative uniqueness of 
objective processes or things in a really complete and ade- 
quate manner ? 

Lenin pointed out the first steps towards this. He suggested 
that we should proceed from any very simple pronounce- 
ment: A terrier is a dog. Capitalism is a social formation. 
A planet is an element of the solar system. The proletariat 
is a class of capitalist society. An individual thing is a 
general thing — that is how we must begin. Each quality by 
its own peculiarity, in its uniqueness, is a part of something 
general and therefore contains something of the general 
in itself. 

The terrier even in its individual peculiarities expresses 
the general features of a dog in general. A planet even in its 
particular movements expresses the general connection of 
the solar system. Capitalism in its own specific form ex- 
presses the general laws of society's development, the 


contradiction between the productive forces and the 
relations of production. 

Thus the unity of the general and individual is not 
external, they mutually penetrate each other. We see this 
unity of opposites in the individual thing itself—" the in- 
dividual is the universal. That is to say opposites are identi- 
cal." " Every individual thing is in some way or other a 

And at the same time the individual thing as a part, as 
an individual aspect of a whole, expresses that whole not 
fully but one-sidedly. In this lies the internal contradiction 
of every individual thing. Capitalism, by expressing the 
general law of every means of production in its peculiar way, 
aids the development of productive forces, but at the same 
time there lies within its qualitative peculiarity its limita- 
tion : at a determined stage of development the preservation 
of property in the means of production becomes an obstacle 
to the development of productive forces. Capitalism played 
a definite historical role in the development of society. But 
if we are to understand this historical role we must relate 
it to the whole and find its connection with the whole line 
of social development. That is why Marx in expounding the 
theory of the capitalist means of production proceeds, after 
his chapter on the conversion of money into capital, to 
treat the question of labour and production from a universal 
point of view. 

A planet in its movement expresses the connection of the 
whole solar system, but its movement is only one aspect, 
which outside the whole is impossible. 

But the universal itself exists through the particular. 
Every particular is incomplete and one-sided. However, 
the incompleteness of one aspect is supplemented by an- 
other incompleteness, by another one-sidedness. Although 
they are mutually opposed yet at the same time they 
presuppose each other, amplify each other and are the 
inseparable poles of a single whole. 

And so in virtue of their contradictory nature, their 
internal incompleteness, particular qualities cannot exist 



in isolation, they presuppose other opposite qualitative 
peculiarities and exist only in union with them. A planet 
exists as a planet only because there is a sun round which it 
revolves. Beasts of prey exist only in company with her- 
bivorous animals. Animals as a whole can exist only because 
plant-life exists, whose green leaves under the influence of 
sun-light turn inorganic substances into organic. And in 
return animals exhale carbonic acid gas, which is required 
for the synthesis of organic substances, and so give food to 
plant life. 

The capitalist appears as capitalist only because capital- 
ism produces not only capitalists but also proletarians- 
people who have nothing to sell except their power to 
labour. And conversely the working class, as a class of the 
oppressed and exploited, exists only because exploiter- 
capitalists confront it. Water is ceaselessly evaporating and 
being condensed ; this maintains the flow of rivers. 

" A particular entity (an object, a phenomenon, etc.) 
is (only) one aspect of idea (truth). For truth there are 
needed still other aspects of actuality, which also seem 
to be independent and particular (existing peculiarly for 
themselves). Only in their aggregation and in their relationship 
is truth realized." 

Thus wrote Lenin in his materialist working-over of 
Hegel's dialectic (whence, among other things, his use of 
the word "idea"). 

A particular entity, a thing, which is characterized by a 
definite quality, only seems to be quite independent. On this 
" seeming " are based all the metaphysical systems. 
Dialectic exposes this " seemingness," discloses the deep 
connection of particular things and demonstrates the 
relativity and mutual penetration of different qualities. 

But are we not arriving at that same absolute relativism 
which we exposed and rejected in the metaphysic of 
mechanism ? By no means ! " Dialectic " — as Lenin con- 
stantly explained — " contains a moment of relativism, of 


negation, of scepticism, but does not amount to relativism." 
The mechanists reduce properties to relations — and 
external relations at that. For them there is no objective 
basis of relations and therefore the qualitative definiteness 
of things is submerged in universal relativity, in the com- 
plete indefiniteness and instability of particular phenomena. 
The sole issue of such a position is idealism, which enables 
them to introduce definiteness into the world through the 
agency of the subject and its " point of view." Dialectical 
materialism is free from these difficulties. Dialectic proceeds 
from the internal definiteness of a thing as the basis of its 
relation to another. For dialectic the relation of qualities to 
each other is not an external fortuitous relation, it issues 
from their inner nature and is the expression of an objec- 
tively existing whole which embraces both related qualities. 

The second quality to which the quality of the given 
thing is related is not that to which the given thing is 
indifferent according to its inner nature, it is not an 
external " other " independent of it, but its own opposite, 
its other. 

For animals, which all directly or indirectly feed on 
plant-life, the existence of plant-life is by no means a 
matter of indifference. Planets presuppose the sun; 
capitalists — the proletariat. 

The mutual definition and mutual exclusion of qualita- 
tively different things and phenomena play their part not 
only with things that exist contemporaneously, but also 
when one exists after the other and when the presence of 
one excludes the presence of the other. Socialism is created 
out of the internally necessary wreck of capitalism. Both 
systems exclude each other and only in a state of severe 
conflict can they co-exist at the same time. But in this 
development they are mutually connected — capitalism 
prepares the revolutionary transition to socialism, the 
emergence of a socialist society under the pressure of 
internal necessity is the result of the irreconcilable con- 
tradictions of the capitalist system. The irreconcilable 
hatred of capitalists towards the Soviet Union, similar to 



our irreconcilable hatred of bourgeois society, gives clear 
enough evidence that these systems are not absolutely 
external, not " indifferent " to each other. Socialism is the 
opposite of capitalism and in this sense we can say that 
socialism is the " other " of the capitalist system. Capitalism 
is related to socialism, as to its own opposite, as to the social 
formation necessary for its replacement. Socialism is 
related to capitalism as to the foregoing stage of social 
development. We shall understand nothing in capitalism or 
in socialism if we do not keep in view their mutual relations 
— the relations of irreconcilable conflict in which is ex- 
pressed their historic succession and connection. 

And so from different sides we have sought to show that 
the relations of things flow out of their inner nature. There 
are no isolated qualities of things- Every quality in its exist- 
ence and development presupposes a number of others. 

This idea was turned by metaphysicians into an absolute 
and thus into a source of errors, opening the door to the 
crudest superstitions. 

The German philosopher, Leibnitz, in his philosophical 
enquiries stumbled on the problem of the mutual connec- 
tion of qualities. In essence he was the first in the history 
of philosophy who stated this problem in precise terms. 
Leibnitz was strongly influenced by the mechanistic view- 
point, and at the same time sought to overcome its limita- 
tions on the basis of a widely extended system of objective 

The mechanistic theory of the relativity of properties 
was understood by him more deeply than by anyone else, 
and he developed it to its extreme limits. Every thing, every 
unit of the world (or as he said — " monad ") in all its con- 
tent is nothing other than a reflection of all other things. 
All things, all properties exist only in relations. All the 
characteristics of each thing are the result of its relations 
with all other things. All things, all conceptions, possess 
only reflective, relative attributes. 

But if each monad is only a reflection of all other monads 
then whence comes that which is reflected ? The view-point 


of" reflective definitions " if turned into an absolute, leads 
to the assertion that everything in the world is a reflection 
without the existence of anything to be reflected, a relation 
without that which is related. One of the historians of 
philosophy characterized this view in the following way: in 
a room there is nothing except a multitude of mirrors which 
entirely cover walls, floor and ceiling ; all the mirrors reflect 
each other, but it is perfectly clear that no definite image 
will be reflected in any of them. A world in which there is 
nothing except purely reflective relationships is as empty 
and as -without content as those mirrors. 

To avoid the emptiness of absolute relativity, Leibnitz 
distinguished between those qualities in his monads which 
were shared in common and those which constituted their 
uniqueness, for they differ infinitely from one another and 
no two can be exactly alike. Leibnitz was so anxious to 
preserve the integrity of these individuals (or monads) that 
he refused to admit that they could affect one another. 
Nevertheless, each behaved as though it were part of a 
whole and helped to constitute that whole. The only way 
in which to explain such a combination is by the hypothesis 
that they have all been created by an exact mechanician. 
Every monad is, as it were, a separate time-piece, and all 
of them though sounding different notes strike always at 
one and the same time and in harmony. The concordance 
of things among themselves is a previously established con- 
cordance, is " a pre-established harmony." Only thus is it 
possible for each separate monad in itself, in its qualitative 
particularity, to be a reflection of the world of all monads 
as a whole. All is in concordance, all has been foreseen in 
the best possible way. All is for the best in this best of 
possible worlds. 1 

Leibnitz lived in that "happy" era when merchant 
capital had entered into partnership with the land-owning 

1 By " best possible " Leibnitz did not mean " best conceivable," but the 
best that you can have under what he supposed to be the necessary 
conditions of human life and human freedom, or the necessary conditions 
of his own social order. 



class, in the " happy " century of absolute monarchy. In 
this epoch the capitalist and landowner had made the great 
discovery that feudal extortion and business trickery har- 
monized splendidly with each other in the system of 
primary capitalist accumulation, and that the material and 
mental culture of the nobility could find itself at one with 
the still undeveloped culture of capitalism. Leibnitz was the 
spokesman of this " happy " century, and to him through 
the rosy spectacles of stabilized absolute monarchy, the 
whole world seemed to have been made specially to enable 
brilliant princesses, very rich bourgeois and royal academi- 
cians to flourish and enjoy themselves. 

But one can plainly see that in the actual connection of 
qualities there is no " pre-established harmony." 

In spite of Leibnitz's metaphysic there are no eternal 
qualities; qualitatively unique things are only transitory 
forms of unitary evolving matter. And if this is so, if quali- 
ties come and go in the unitary process of the development 
of the material world, then what is there wonderful in the 
fact that they are internally connected among themselves ? 
And there is no need of any " pre-established harmony " to 
explain their internal connection within the unity of the 
solar system. They " only seem to be independent and 
separate and to be existing privately for themselves " 
(Lenin) whereas in actuality they exist as the result of the 
division of unity, each as the opposite of another. 

In the same way after Darwin, we do not wonder at the 
internally necessary relations of the organic world. As 
Darwin pointed out the specialization of organisms in 
different directions, the emergence of qualitative differ- 
ences between them, was one of the necessary conditions of 
their survival. In the process also of evolution the " division 
of unity " led to the emergence of independent species 
which are internally connected with each other and each 
of which in relation to another, is, in fact, its other. 

The differentiation of an undeveloped whole, the emer- 
gence of differences between qualities by means of the 
division of unity proceed also in social development. The 


emergence of classes, the polarization which takes place in 
the conversion of a simple merchant economy into capitalist 
economy (for example the differentiation of the peasantry), 
the oppositeness of separate social usages — in all these 
examples we see always that same" immanent emergence of 
differences—the internal objective logic of evolution and 
the struggle of the differences of polarity." (Lenin.) 

And so in the relativity of qualities there is nothing pre- 
established, there is nothing ready-made, no previously 
given concordance. The relativity of qualities is the product 
of never ceasing material development. 

However, the connection of things is not only foreign 
to the idea of " anything pre-established " but also quite 
remote from " harmony." The relativity of qualities is not 
a product of a peaceful reconciliation of extremes, it arises 
in a harsh conflict of contradictions, it exists only in a pro- 
cess of eternal emergence and annihilation. It arises out of 
discordance, out of conflict, and having arisen is turned into 
its own opposite, into a source of new contradictions and of 
new splitting. " Reason becomes unreason, a boon is turned 
into a misfortune." (Goethe.) 

A concordance is never wholly realized, it always exists 
merely as one of contradictory tendencies. 

Only men isolated in their studies from all contact with 
the real world can dream of world harmony, " because just 
as this can never be in the development of nature, so too 
it can never be in the development of society. For only by 
means of a number of attempts (each one of which taken 
separately will be one-sided and will suffer from a certain 
discordance) is an ultimately victorious socialism made 
possible out of the revolutionary co-operation of prole- 
tarians of all countries." (Lenin). 

Absolute concordance " cannot obtain in the develop- 
ment of society, just as it cannot obtain in the development 
of nature." Biologists who think dialectically, know quite 
well how important it is to estimate not only the concord- 
ance, the agreement of an organism with its environment, 
but also its disagreement. In the simultaneous and 



liL— _ 

contradictory emergence of concordance and discordance 
the development of the organic world is accomplished. 

And so different qualities are internally connected with 
each other, yet their relativity is ever changing and pro- 
foundly contradictory. In actual development, which is 
denied by the upholders of " pre-established harmony," 
concordance and .discordance are interwoven and there is no 
stable harmony in the relations of separate things. 

" The world does not consist of ready-made finished 
objects " (Engels), matter is in ceaseless development. And 
so not only are separate objects changeable and transitory, 
but with their changes there is indissolubly connected the 
change of their mutual relations. Not only do particular 
animals emerge and vanish, but also whole species of 
animals. The whole world of animals and plants arose dur- 
ing a definite period and has found the Hmit of its biological 
development in the formation of human society. In society 
the change of social structures proceeds through the change 
of people and their relations. 

The internal contradictions of development penetrate 
both the general and the particular. The recasting of par- 
ticular things, in the process of establishing new connections, 
in the process of setting up a new " general " class, is at the 
same time a process of destroying the old " general " class. 
A collective-farm worker is still a peasant, but at the same 
time he already appears as a member of an enterprise of a 
socialist type. The connections of the old are not yet all 
severed and already the decisive relations of the new type 
have been forged. Through the spreading of the new 
socialist relations in the country-side proceeds the breaking 
of the old private property connections and with it the 
remaking of the peasant into a worker of socialist society. 
The mutually relative qualities of the petty-bourgeoisie are 
being replaced by the new qualities of socialist workers. 
And until this process is consummated, the peasant- 
collective-farm-worker will be conscious of deep internal 
contradictions in his position in society. In its turn the con- 
summation of the construction of socialism will set going 


new problems, open up new perspectives, will require the 
creation of new relations and through the development of 
these will remake mankind. 

The unity of the general and the particular is relative; 
their contradiction is absolute, just as movement and 
development are absolute. That is why always and in 
everything " every generality only approximately embraces 
all particular objects." Always and in everything the eternal 
development of matter and the eternal succession of its 
general stages of development proceed through the deep 
contradictions of every particular thing. 

" Every concrete thing, every concrete something, stands 
in different and often contradictory relations to everything 
else, therefore it exists as itself and as something else " 
(Lenin) . 

Bourgeois thought, in the majority of cases, is unable to 
understand these contradictions and bourgeois scientists, to 
keep on the right side of bourgeois ideology, make use of 
two formal metaphysical devices. They either acknowledge 
a purely stagnant universal, in harmony with itself, into 
which particular things have to be forced; or they declare 
that general ideas are a fiction of the mind. Quite frequently 
they produce an alternative subjective-idealist argument 
against the Marxian dialectic. They point out that the 
general law of value never appears in its pure aspect in 
relation to the particular commodities on the market, and 
this allows bourgeois economists and revisionist theoreti- 
cians to declare that the law of value is a subjective fiction. 
Engels in a letter to Conrad Schmidt explained the actual 
dialectic of the general law and its partial manifestation. 

He asked Conrad Schmidt: 

" Did feudalism always correspond to its idea ? — The 
answer is ' No.' Must we then conclude that feudalism 
was a fiction, that it reached full perfection only in 
Palestine for a short time and even so (for the most part) 
on paper ? Or are the basic ideas in the natural sciences 
also fictions because they by no means always coincide 



with actuality ? Even after we had accepted the theory 
of evolution our ideas on organic life only approximately 
agreed with actuality. For otherwise there would be no 
evolution. The idea of ' fish ' for example includes life in 
water and breathing by gills. How will you progress from 
a fish to a land animal unless you overcome this idea ? 
And it was overcome, for we know of fishes whose air 
bladder developed further into lungs and permits them 
to breathe air. How can we progress from the reptile that 
lays an egg to the mammal that brings forth its offspring 
alive unless we bring one of these two ideas to a clash 
with actuality ? Indeed, in the monotremata we have 
a sub-class of mammals that lay eggs, the duck-billed 
platypus. In the year 1843 •"• saw a duck-bill's egg in 
Manchester and in my conceited ignorance made fun 
of the stupid notion that a mammal could lay an egg; 
now we know it is a fact." 1 

In its development the world is infinitely varied. Old 
connections are interwoven with new and not merely" in 
the process of emergence of the new, for even after the 
new type of relation has been more or less established, the 
old continues very often to exist along with the new, as 
another species. 

The emergence of animals and plants by no means 
abolished inorganic nature from which the life of organisms 
sprang. On the contrary the very existence of animals and 
plants pre-supposes a definite inorganic environment — 
hills and plains, rivers and seas, a particular kind of soil, 
an atmosphere, etc. In just the same way human society 
needs a definite geographical environment. 

Every universal is also only part of a system of wider 
connections and is in a state of internally necessary rela- 
tions with other universals. Thus. all the relations of things 
constitute an extraordinarily complex and variegated net- 
work. Lenin in the fragment " On Dialectic," often empha- 
sizes this complexity: " Every particular is by thousands of 
1 Engels Correspondence, published 1923. 


transitions connected with particulars of another species 
(things, phenomena, processes), etc." 

Thus Lenin notes two types of relations between things ; 
the relation within a given universal and the relation to 
things of another species. 

The capitalist exploits the workers. This relation flows 
out of the internal nature of the capitalist as a social 
phenomenon, and is a relation not outside but within the 
social whole. This same capitalist may be ill from an 
infectious disease. His relation to the bacteria which caused 
the disease also cannot be regarded as a purely external 
phenomenon. The biological characteristics of man, al- 
though they are changed in social life, nevertheless create 
the internal basis for infectious disease. But if we compare 
these two relations we shall see that one of them is relatively 
external in comparison with the other, The connection of 
a millionaire with his workmen is an organic and direct 
connection; the connection of the millionaire with the 
germ of some disease which he might contract is (with the 
whole pernicious character of them both to mankind) very, 
very remote. 

There are no things absolutely external to each other, 
but there exist things and events, " whose internal mutual 
connection is so remote or so difficult to define that we can 
forget it, can hold that it does not exist " (Engels) . 

And so in conflict with the mechanistic ascription of all 
connections to external relations we emphasized that the 
relations of things flow out of their internal nature. And at 
the same time, whatever the upholders of" pre-established 
harmony" may .say, we must not forget that the mutual 
relativity of qualities is infinitely various, deeply contra- 
dictory and by no means absolute. 

The unitary development of matter is accomplished 
through particular things. Their relative independence and 
stability in development, their contradictions and conflict, 
which belong to them internally and are manifested in their 
external relations — all these destroy the idealistic legend of 
an absolutely attuned harmony of nature. Thus Engels 



noted that with the whole unity of development there 
always remains " a chaotic aggregation of the objects of 
nature in some or other determined field or even over the 
whole world." 

There are no absolutely external things, but also there 
is no absolute concordance of things. In vital development 
the relatively external and the relatively internal are inter- 
woven, condition' each other, and create a vital connection 
of everything with everything in the unitary flow of the 
development of matter. Lenin, formulating one of the 
elements of dialectic, wrote : 

" The relations of each thing (phenomenon, etc.) are 
not only many and varied, but also general, universal. 
All things (phenomena, processes, etc.) are connected 
with each other. In development there is realized the con- 
nection (of all parts) of an infinite process, the necessary 
connection of the whole world . . . the mutual determining 
connection of everything." 

In summing up this chapter we will recall one very 
essential Leninist instruction. 

In order to disclose the quality of an object, to express 
its internal uniqueness, we must consider it in its all-round 
connection. But the different relations of a thing to others 
must be united in our knowledge and action, not arbi- 
trarily, not externally, not haphazardly, but on the basis of 
that thing's own development, its own self-movement. In 
the self-movement of an object " its connection with the 
surrounding world is changed." When we disclose the line 
of this change, we reveal the actual quality of the object, 
we find the form of movement that belongs to it. 

Lenin in the discussion on trade unions in 1921 greatly 
stressed the many-sidedness of the special nature of trade 
unions, the infinite number of relations which connected the 
trade unions with the other elements of proletarian 

But in opposition to Bukharin and Trotsky, Lenin found 


the special functions of unions in that connection which 
will lead to the general, i.e. to the whole system of pro- 
letarian dictatorship, by disclosing the relativity of all the 
elements of that system. 

To understand the trade-union question properly a whole 
series of questions must be faced: the tendencies in the field 
of trade unionism, the relation of classes, the relation of 
politics to economics, the special character of the state, of 
the party and of the trade unions themselves. In other 
words trade unions do not exist in isolation but only in 
relation with other organizations of the working class— 
with the party, the state, local state and economic organiza- 
tions, the great mass of workers, etc. In these relations we 
see the many aspects of the role of trade unions— the defence 
of workers from bureaucratic perversions, the productive 
role in the sense of utilizing the unions for propaganda for 
increased production, the drawing of masses into the actual 
control of production, and the task of raising the political 
consciousness of the workers, etc. 

But all this many-sidedness and relativity of the trade 
unions does not mean that what they really are is purely 
a question of the " point of view," so that they can be just 
as truly regarded in several different ways. On the con- 
trary, in spite of, indeed along with, the many-sidedness of 
the subject under consideration, there emerges one and only 
one solution. In all the different functions of trade unions, 
in the change of these functions at different stages, we see 
the appearance of one line of development— the movement 
towards communism, the line of a " coalition " with all 
the other organizations of the working class, the line of 
drawing the backward masses up to the level of the " imme- 
diate directing advance guard," the line of promoting 
workers more and' more to positions of authority. In this 
line of development, there is also disclosed the unitary, 
qualitatively unique definiteness of the trade unions— 
which is to be a school of communism. 

And so as Lenin has shown us, dialectical logic demands 
a scrutiny of all the connections of the object in the unity 



of its development. There are no changes in isolated things. 
Removed from its connection the category of self-movement 
is insufficient for the determining of a thing, just as an 
abstract proposition on " general connection " removed 
from actual material development will lead only to meta- 
physics and absolute relativism. 

"It is necessary to unite, to connect, to combine the 
general principle of development with the general principle 
of the unity of the world, of nature, of movement, of matter, 
etc." (Lenin). 

Neither the mechanists nor the Menshevist idealists under- 
stood the unity of self-movement and general connection. 
For the mechanists all changes are to be attributed to the 
change of external relationships, and so in essence they 
deny development. The Menshevist idealists attribute all 
development to the internal self-movement of things, and 
thus obviate the general connection of processes. For them 
interference by an external influence is accidental and a 
hindrance to development. This tendency was for example 
manifested in their conception of biological development 
— all development was ascribed to the internal changes of 
the organism, independent of its surrounding environment. 
Thus both the mechanists and the Menshevist idealists are 
at one in this — neither group understood that absolutely 
external connections do not exist, that development by 
internal necessity goes on through an external relation to 
something else, while those relations to something else 
themselves flow out of the internal nature of each thing. 

Only this uniting of self-movement and general connec- 
tion gives us the key to the unity of quality and property. 



According to the metaphysic of properties, quality and 
property are simply identical with .one another. A property 
is an independent quality, an independent force, aptitude, 
etc. And a thing is the external unity of these independent 

According to the mechanistic view a property is the rela- 
tion of one thing to another, but it is an external relation, it 
does not flow out of the internal nature of the thing. 

In actuality there are no independent isolated qualities. 
Quality exists in relation, and these relations flow out of 
the unique nature of each thing by an internal necessity. 
As a result of its contradictions a thing must exist in connec- 
tion with others and its properties are nothing else than 
the manifestations of its quality in relation to other things. 

" Quality is a property above all and pre-eminently in 
the sense of how much it shows itself in external relation as 
an immanent denniteness." 1 

Plants that possess chlorophyl cannot exist without sun- 
light ; their internal qualitative denniteness manifests itself 
in the property of absorbing solar rays. A river does not 
exist without banks ; it possesses the property of changing 
their lines, it may wash them away, it may re-establish 
them elsewhere. Every chemical element pre-supposes 
the existence of other elements and its chemical properties 
are revealed in its different relations to different elements — - 
to one set it is neutral, with others it unites in a violent 
1 Hegel, Science of Logic, vol. i, p. 54. 



reaction. Man is a social being and his quality, the 
" nature " he derives from the class he belongs to (in other 
words his character) is revealed in his actions, in his 
relations to other people and things. 

There is no matter without movement, and forms of 
movement do not exist in isolation, every quality reveals 
itself in its activity, which is manifested in its relations. In 
defining the " object " with which the natural sciences 
concern themselves, Engels wrote : 

" The object is a moving substance. Again it is possible 
to know the different forms and aspects of the substance 
itself through movement; only in movement are the 
properties of a body revealed ; there can be nothing to 
say of a body, that is not found in movement. It follows 
that out of the forms of movement flow the properties of 
the moving bodies." 1 

As we see, Engels distinguishes between quality and 
property only as two sides of one and the same definite 
aspect of a process. Quality and property are indissolubly 
connected. However, the theory of primary and secondary 
qualities, the hieroglyphic theory and Kantian agnosticism, 
all separate these categories. In knowledge — say the agnos- 
tics — we are dealing not with the " thing in itself" but only 
with its relation to our perception. According to the theory 
of hieroglyphs the " thing in itself" is knowable only in 
the conditional symbols of our sensations. In Kant's 
opinion, the "thing in itself" is absolutely unknowable, 
we know only the " thing for us," only a phenomenon, 
which has nothing in common with the " thing in itself." 
Further, as Hegel indicated, the Kantian " thing in itself" 
is an empty abstraction about which it is possible to say 
nothing, for this reason that by moving it from relations, 
from its " being for another," we ourselves destroy, the 
bridge to the knowledge of it. In his notes on the Hegelian 
dialectic, Lenin wrote on this issue as follows : 

3 Dialectic of Nature. 


" The aphorism, that we do not know what exactly 
' things in themselves ' really are seems to be wisdom. 
But the ' thing in itself' is an abstraction from every 
definition (from every relation to another), i.e. it is 
nothing. . - . How very profound : the ' thing in itself ' 
and its converse — ' the thing for others.' . . . The ' thing 
in itself' as a generality is an empty, lifeless abstraction. 
In life, in movement, everything exists both in itself and 
for others, in relationship to something else, and so 
continually transforms itself from one state into another." 

However, the arguments for agnosticism are inexhaustible 
and it is possible to ask, whence do you get your knowledge 
of the internal definiteness of a thing? In experience only a 
thing's external appearances are given to us, only its 
properties, and all our knowledge amounts to a description 
of particular properties known subjectively through the 
senses. We see light and we distinguish colour because we 
possess the organ of sight; we hear sounds because we 
possess the organ of hearing; we detect scents because we 
have an organ of smell; we discern a rough or a smooth 
surface because we have a sense of touch. The qualitative 
differences between sensations are created not by differ- 
ences in the things in themselves, but by the differences of 
our organs of sense. 

In answer to the agnostic we will admit that each 
particular sensation is quite one-sided and limited, but 
we will remind him that knowledge is by no means content 
with particular sensations, but is all the time correlating 
them and thus disclosing the unity of the properties of the 
objectively existing thing. And here it is easy to point out 
that the different organs of sense give us by no means 
absolutely different impressions. The organs of sense are 
connected, co-ordinated with each other, there is between 
them a known unity and up to a certain degree they 
amplify each other, since they themselves are the historic 
product of social practice in which society had to deal with 
a single, many-sided object— the world. For example : 


" Touch and sight amplify each other in such a way 
that you can often tell from seeing a thing what its 
tactile properties will be. And finally, just as always the 
one and the same ' I ' receives and works over these 
different sense impressions, and gathers them into a 
unity, so these different impressions are conveyed from 
one and the , same thing, and ' appear ' as its general 
properties, in this way making possible our com- 
prehension of it. Therefore the task of explaining these 
differences, these properties, which are attainable only 
by the different organs of sense, of establishing a connec- 
tion between them is a scientific task. . . ." x 

But that does not satisfy the agnostic. In the first place, 
he says, we do not know whether all these properties belong 
to one thing, as you assert, or to different things, and 
secondly you do not go further than external properties, the 
external relations of the thing to the consciousness. 

The agnostic proceeds from the supposition that things 
in themselves are by their internal nature absolutely 
foreign to consciousness, and so in his opinion there is no 
bridge between the relations of a thing and its internal 

In this very supposition lies the basic vice of all agnostic 
doubts. As a matter of fact if things were absolutely foreign 
to us, no objective connection,™ contact could be established 
between us and the objective world in general. As we 
explained above, relations between things are possible in 
general only because they possess in some or other relation 
an internal kinship. If things, as agnostics think, were 
absolutely external to man, we could not receive from them 
any sensations whatever. 

In the world of reality we have sensations because both 
the things we know about and ourselves belong not to two 
quite different " substances," but are parts of one and the 
same world, products and stages of one and the same process 
of material development. During the age-long history of the 
1 Engels, Anti-Duhring. 


animal world and of the development of human society 
our sense organs were formed and perfected, our capacity 
for knowing the objective world was developed, and this 
direct unity of nature and man is realized every day and 
every hour in our practical action. 

" We can demonstrate the correctness of our concep- 
tion of a given phenomenon by the fact that we ourselves 
evoke it, produce it from its conditions and make it 
serve our aims. This puts an end to the Kantian c thing 
in itself.'" 1 

It is quite clear that we can evoke the phenomena of 
nature only in so far as we ourselves - are included in its 
total system and only in so far as our action is a special 
form of material movement. 

" Primarily, labour is a process going on between man 
and nature, a process in which man, through his own 
activity, initiates, regulates, and controls the material 
reactions between himself and nature. He confronts 
nature as one of her own forces, setting in motion arms 
and legs, head and hands, in order to appropriate nature's 
productions in a form suitable to his own wants. By thus 
acting on the external world and changing it, he at the 
same time changes his own nature. He develops the 
potentialities that slumber within him, and subjects these 
inner forces to his own control." 2 

By our work we create new things with new properties. 
"Labour has been united with the article of work. It has 
been substantialized, the article has been subjected to the 
labour-process " (Marx). When we perceive the external 
world passively the movement of a thing allows us to under- 
stand it through its properties which are reflected as sensa- 
tions in our consciousness but whose objective basis we do 
not know. But in the process of production our action 
1 Engels, Ludwig Feuerbach. 2 Capital, vol. i, chap. 5. 


emerges as a form of movement which produces a new 
thing with new properties. 

" The labour has become incorporated with the subject 
matter of labour. Labour has been materialized, and the 
subject matter of labour has been elaborated. That which 
in the labourer appeared as movement, now appears in 
the product in a resting phase, as " being " instead of 
" becoming." The worker has spun, and the product is 
his web." 1 

Thus in the process of material production and of class 
conflict, which aim at the changing of " natural " things 
and of social relations, there is disclosed an objective 
dialectic of quality and property. 

In compounding a theory or scientific hypothesis we 
proceed from properties to the form of movement that lies 
at their base, but this is possible only because in practice — in 
industry, in experiment, in class struggle — we proceed by 
the reverse course; we create by our action determined 
forms of movement and arrive at new properties. The 
radical re-casting of things allows us to probe into the world 
from the inside, it opens up to us the contradictory move- 
ment that lies at the basis of things and thus creates a basis 
and criterion of knowledge. In our practice we ourselves 
make actual the development of matter, we ourselves create 
objective actuality. 

" Purposeful action is directed to this end — that, by 
abolishing determined aspects, features, phenomena of 
the external world, we may give to ourselves reality in the 
form of external actuality " (Lenin). Thus in practical 
action " the consciousness of man not only reflects the 
objective world, but also creates it " (Lenin). 

In this creatiyeness we have such a close mutual penetra- 
tion of man and the objective actuality that exists outside 
him, such an immediate unity of them, as radically refutes 

1 Capital, vol. i, p. 1 73. 


agnosticism and the superstition 1 that grows from it. By 
disclosing and developing the connection of man with the 
objective world, practice opens the way to a deeper know- 
ledge of the nature of things, to an ever fuller disclosure of 
the internal definiteness of a thing in its properties^ to an 
even more many-sided conversion of the " thing in itself" 
into the " thing for us." An impassable and mysterious gulf 
between the " thing in itself" and our consciousness exists 
only in the imagination of Kantians and their successors. 

Both superficial sense impressions and very accurate 
scientific conceptions are reflections of actual things, copies 
of them, although copies of a different degree of accuracy 
and depth. 

A thing has an infinite number of properties. In each 
property is reflected some one aspect of the object. We shall 
never exhaust all the aspects, but even in the simplest 
impressions, ocular, aural and so on, we are given not 
hieroglyphs of the thing, not subjective, secondary proper- 
ties, but a reflection of it from some determined aspect. 
On the basis of practice we shall know ever more and more 
properties, ever more and more aspects, and by disclosing 
their internal unity, shall know ever more deeply the quali- 
tative definiteness of the processes. 

We know the quality of a thing through its properties. 
The diversity of properties, the diversity of aspects, in 
which the thing is connected directly or indirectly with all 
other things, is inexhaustible, infinite. Being in connection 
with everything, each particular thing is in essence just as in- 
finite in its many-sidedness as the world as a whole. The apt 
expression of this thought by Dietzgen the German philoso- 
pher and worker was cited by Lenin with approval. It runs : 

" We may know nature and its parts only relatively ; 
because every part, although it is only a relative part of 

i If subjective experience and states of consciousness are our only data 
in apprehending reality then " religious " experiences are as valid as 
any other and the whole world of occultism and superstition is put_on a 
par with the world known to science. Hence this relativist agnosticism 
is declared to open the door to superstition. 


nature, has nevertheless the nature of an absolute, the 
nature of a natural whole— which is, as such, inex- 
haustible by knowledge." 1 

What properties are more essential than others ? Subjec- 
tivists say there is no objective distinction. In their opinion 
out of the multitude of particular properties we select arbi- 
trarily those which are more interesting and important to 
us and pay no attention to the rest. Only one who com- 
pletely disregarded actual material practice could state the 
question thus. To an empty " contemplator " of nature, to 
one whose approach to things is superficial, a mere con- 
sideration of supply and demand, the objectivity of pro- 
perties is of no importance at all. A bourgeois on holiday in 
the country admires the bright colours of a poisonous 
plant, and does not bother about its more essential, harmful 
properties. But for the deep practical knowledge required 
in order to change things the most " interesting " properties 
are those which are objectively the most essential. " The 
introduction of practice into the determining of an object," 
of which Lenin spoke, will lead not to an arbitrary selection 
of properties but quite on the contrary demands the 
objective criteria of their essentiality or non-essentiality. 

In order to transform a tree by work into paper, or to 
build a house from it, or to cut sleepers, or to get products 
by treating it chemically, it is not enough for us to know 
the colour of its bark or to listen to the poetical murmur of 
its leaves — we must know what are objectively the most 
essential properties of wood, etc., etc. 

By what objective criteria can we tell whether properties 
are essential ? As we have seen, every quality exists not as 
something discrete but only in relation to other qualities. 
The internal contradictions of the quality are the source of 
its various properties and make it possible for them to reveal 
themselves. Particular things are not independent — for their 
own existence they need other things. The connection of 
things consists in their difference; their unity is realized 

1 Lenin, vol. xiii, p. 106. 


through oppositeness and conflict. The closer their con- 
nection, and at the same time the more acute their oppo- 
sition, so much the more essential and characteristic are 
their mutual relations, so much the more are their essential 
properties revealed in these relations. 

It is the nature of capitalists to exploit. This character- 
istic is expressed in their relation to natural resources, in 
the limitations of their interest in art, and even in their 
emphasized tendency to distinguish themselves by ^ a 
modish costume— in all these things. But the most essential 
of them is their relation to the workers. 

In all the habits of a beast of prey are disclosed its quali- 
tative definiteness, but the most essential properties of a cat 
are manifested in the catching of mice. 

An acid has many properties, but the most essential is its 
ability to combine with an alkali or a metal and form a salt. 
In a word the most essential qualities are those which a 
thing manifests in relation to " its other," to its opposite. 
Things that have little in common are for the most part 
" indifferent " to each other. No one examines a mechanic 
by playing chess with him. Just as little will be revealed by 
testing him on an automatic machine. A mechanic will 
show his essential properties in relation to " his own other," 
to the machine which it is his job to work, especially if he is 
confronted with a difficult repair job in connection with it. 
The most characteristic properties of a chemical element are 
revealed in relation with those elements which belong to the 
same family— a metal to a metalloid and the converse. 

Chemistry at the beginning of the sixteenth century 
abandoned the alchemistic consideration of isolated pro- 
perties and began to study properties in relation to one 
another. Attention was drawn at this time to the utilization 
of chemical preparations as medicines ; this is the period of 
what is called iatro-chemistry during which the relation of 
chemical substance and their properties to the human 
organism was examined. This was mainly fruitful in increas- 
ing the knowledge of compounds but the more essential 
properties of chemical substances were revealed only after 



chemistry had begun to compare the chemical elements 
themselves with each other, to study their mutual " kin- 

As we have explained, the more essential properties of a 
thing are manifested in its relationship to the opposite thing 
of the same family, to the opposite particular of the same 
" general," to the opposite aspect of the same wider whole. 

This proposition leads us to yet another quite important 
conclusion. Let us first ask in what are the essential features 
of the general itself manifested ? We know that the general 
exists only in the particulars and through the particulars, 
that the whole exists only in the unity of its opposing aspects. 
But if this is so then clearly the specific definiteness of the 
whole is manifested in the relation of the opposing aspects 
and parts. Its essential properties are reflected in the unity 
of the essential properties of its opposing aspects. We 
begin our knowledge from relatively external, less essential 
properties and from them we proceed to disclose the internal 
relations of the thing, in which are expressed its most essen- 
tial properties. 

Each quality is dissected, each contains in itself a whole 
order of subordinate qualitative differences. Therefore 
each quality contains in itself a number of internal rela- 
tions. It is precisely in these that the internal contradictions 
of quality emerge most fully and clearly and therefore in 
these that the most essential properties are expressed. 

As long as the investigation of society proceeded along 
the line of its relatively external connections the knowledge 
of social phenomena was quite precarious and superficial. 
It was necessary to define the specific sphere of social phe- 
nomena, to learn to compare the different processes that he 
in one and the same whole. But this could only be done by 
discovering the opposing sides of society, by expressing what 
were its specific features in a unity of opposing poles. With- 
out this the bourgeois scientists had to be content with a 
description of the most superficial aspects of social life. 
Some of them held the essential property of social man to be 
his desire to imitate, others — the sex urge, a third group — 


the desire to accumulate, etc. Whole sociological treatises 
are written on all kinds of less important social phenomena, 
exalting them to a position of essential importance. The 
actual path to the understanding of social properties is 
revealed by approaching society as a whole, by distinguish- 
ing its opposing aspects, its opposing qualities. And as our 
knowledge of this unity of opposites becomes deeper, science 
is the more able to discover essential properties. Marx dis- 
closed the internal contradictions in the development of 
the means of production, showed the inner connection of 
opposing classes and on this basis developed a study of the 
properties of society and social phenomena as no one had 
been able to do before him. 

And so, the mechanists notwithstanding, it is impossible 
to ascribe properties to the external relations of things. 
Properties express specific definiteness, and the most 
essential, most characteristic properties of bodies are those 
which are manifested in the internal relations of the con- 
nected whole. Imperialism is a unitary system; its most 
essential properties are manifested in the contradictory 
connection of monopoly and competition. Thus in the 
infinite relations of a thing to other things and in the rela- 
tions of its own aspects is manifested the whole diversity of 
its properties and in these its quality finds full expression. 

Quality is necessarily manifested in properties, it can 
only develop itself through the unfolding of properties. " A 
being that exists in itself" necessarily becomes a " being 
that exists for another." Thus the aggregate of properties 
of a given thing appears by no means as something stag- 
nant and immutable. In the development of a thing as a 
unitary whole its particular aspects are inevitably changed, 
but not in such a way that the thing should change its 
qualitative definiteness. " Although a thing exists only in 
so far as it possesses properties, yet its existence is not 
inseparably connected with the existence of those or other 
determined properties, and it can lose certain of them, 
without ceasing to be that which it is " (Hegel). Not every 
change of a trait of character changes the quality of man as 



a whole. But the development of this whole cannot take 
place except through a change of particular properties. 

The unity of quality and properties, as we saw above in 
many examples, is a contradictory and fluid unity. It is 
realized not in an unchanged, quiescent relationship, but in 
ceaseless contradictory development. And to understand 
this unity the thing must be regarded not in its particular 
states, but in the whole line of its changes. What is this line 
of development, whither does this changing of the " being 
as it exists in itself " to the " being as it exists for another " 
lead ? The mechanists hold that the development of the 
connections of a thing with other things is the expression of 
its dependence on all external circumstances. The more 
the relations of things are developed, the less of stability 
and definiteness is there in the change of each of them. The 
French materialists grew confused in the complex network 
of relations and everything seemed to them to be the sport 
of countless external causes. They sought the causes of 
change in everything in the world except in the entity that 
was itself changing. The collapse of the English revolution, 
some of them tried to explain, did not follow from its own 
development but from gravel that formed in Cromwell's 
bladder and caused his sickness and death. But this citation 
of gravel is purely arbitrary — it is impossible to discover 
all the " gravels," all the " crazy atoms." 1 And if every 
event is to be found in absolute dependence on external 
causes, it is impossible to know anything at all about its 

We by no means ascribe movement to external causes, 
nor properties to external relations. We proceed from the 
self-movement of a thing and therefore our understanding 
of a being that exists for another is directly opposite to the 
mechanist's understanding. A thing is by no means the 
passive sport of external impacts. In its self-movement a 
thing possesses its own activity and manifests it through 
its properties. 

Let us recall the examples which we gave at the beginning 
1 " Crazy Atoms." See Note on p. 230. 


of the chapter — they exactly illustrate this active role of 

Even if we ourselves act on a thing, and as a conse- 
quence it takes on the appearance of a passive object 
of our action — even, in this case, those properties which 
it manifests are the expression of its own activity, its own 
qualitative uniqueness. In turning a piece of metal on a 
lathe we come up against the hardness of metal ; in the 
chemical working of this or that material we evoke the 
appearance of its chemical properties. An agriculturist 
who despises the activity of the properties of the plants 
he is cultivating or the animals he is breeding will never get 
the results he desires. The difhculties of production and 
particular failures of our action on things demonstrate 
better than all arguments that in the development of 
properties, in their " being as it exists for another," things 
actively express their quality. The essential thing is that it 
is possible to evoke in the object such a change as flows 
out of its own nature. And if we do not apply our action 
to it externally or metaphysically, we shall make it "in 
being as it exists for us " express those properties that we 
need. Thus in solving the problem of properties, as in all 
other things, we must proceed from the self-movement 
of matter. And every self-movement arises on a basis of 
contradictions—" being as it exists for another " is one 
of its manifestations. Through connection with other 
things a thing asserts its own independence; by acting on 
another, it develops its own definiteness ; in its relationship 
to another a thing at the same time relates itself to itself 
and changes itself. 

In disclosing the dialectic of the development of social 
man, Marx wrote : 

" By acting on the external world and changing it, 
he changes at the same time his own nature. He develops 
potentialities that slumber within him and subjects these 
inner forces to his own control." 

1 Capital, vol. i, chap. 5. 



It is easy to note that in the proposition quoted, Marx 
gives a concrete picture of the contradictory development 
of a quality through its relations to something else. Faculties, 
lying dormant within man, i.e. that are found in a state 
of being in themselves, are developed through action on 
nature — through being for another — and become the proper 
active force of man. The developed qualitative definiteness 
of man, as reflected in his own consciousness, is in this way 
turned into his " being for himself." 

The way of developing a quality lies through its many- 
sided connections. Here is that line of development in 
which quality and property emerge in their indissoluble 

The proletariat, until it developed its struggle against 
the bourgeoisie, appeared as a class in itself. It existed 
in the likeness of a disordered mass of workers, its qualita- 
tive definiteness as of a united, complete class with its 
individual properties and tasks was not yet developed, 
not yet unfolded. At this stage of development of the 
proletariat, the workers are under the thumb of the bour- 
geoisie in the latters' conflict with feudalism. The way of 
consolidating, of rallying the proletariat, of welding it 
into a special class goes on through organization of the 
struggle against the exploiting classes. 

In this relation to its " other," which is before all things 
its antagonist, the proletariat develops its properties. 
In this process it at first reveals superficial and non- 
essential properties, by expressing its protest in an elemen- 
tary fashion and without any organization, by coming 
forward with particular economic demands of slight im- 
portance. But the further it unfolds its " being as it exists 
for another," that is to say, the more its opposition to the 
capitalists becomes intensified, the more deeply and widely 
does it manifest its essential properties, the properties 
of the leading revolutionary class. And when it produces its 
advance guard, its revolutionary party, which fosters 
within the proletariat a knowledge of its historical tasks 
and leads it on to the struggle against the capitalist system 


as a whole, then the proletariat emerges as an independent 
force of historic development, conscious of its independence 
— it becomes a class " for itself." 

We repeat, through active " being as it exists for an- 
other " lies the way of contradictory development of 
every quality, the full unfolding of a given quality is the 
extreme intensification of its internal contradictions. 

As we explained, every particular, qualitatively specific 
thing possesses internal contradictions. From one aspect 
it has the nature of a whole, includes in itself the general, 
from the other aspect it is limited in its uniqueness. In 
virtue of this contradiction it is connected with other 
things, is related with them. However, its " being as it exists 
for others," its connection with them, does not resolve its 
internal contradictions. On the contrary, through relation 
to another its quality is unfolded and thus and more fully 
are revealed its limitations, its finiteness. The more devel- 
oped the capitalist means of production becomes, the more 
apparent are the signs of its end. The more an organism 
develops the closer is its limit, the boundary of its life— its 
death. From the view-point of a mechanist this limit 
is placed outside the quality of the thing as an external 
force, but actually the limit to every quality is found within 
it. Without a limit there is no quality, no defmiteness, no 
distinction between one thing and another. But every end 
is the beginning of something new, the limit of one quality 
appears as the beginning of another. 

The proletariat in its struggle against capitalism is turned 
into a class for itself, but by doing so it strives to pass 
beyond the bounds of capitalism, it seeks the abolition 
of classes and consequently points the way to its own 
extinction as a special class. In the full unfolding of the 
qualitative defmiteness of the proletariat is included its 
self-negation. And such is the dialectic of every quality, 
of everything finite. In his review of Hegelian logic Lenin 
defined the dialectic of the finite in the following terms : 
" The finite is . . . something regarded from the view-point of 
its immanent limit— from the view-point of its contradiction 



with itself, which contradiction pushes and carries it (this 
something) further than its bounds. ..." 

Thus for itself the "being" of a thing is its transition to 
another. Every quality, having developed all its possibilities, 
finds its limit, and gives rise to something new. 

" So this dialectical philosophy dissolves all conceptions 
of final, absolute truth, and of a final absolute state of 
humanity corresponding to it. For it nothing is final, 
absolute, sacred. It reveals the transitory character of 
everything and in everything ; nothing can endure before 
it except the uninterrupted process of becoming and of 
passing away, of endless ascendancy from the lower to 
the higher." 

1 Engels, Ludwig Feuerbach, p. 33. 



Things in their connection are many sided and the 
knowledge of determined processes is not limited to the 
disclosure of their quality. Above all, we note that every- 
thing along with its qualitative definiteness possesses a 
quantitative definiteness. A thing is big or little, its movement 
quick or slow ; one collection of things may be distinguished 
from another by the number of its elements, by their 
mutual arrangement; temperature may be high or low, 
and so on. 

At the first glance the quantity and the quality of a 
thing are quite independent of each other. A thing may be 
increased or decreased and remain qualitatively the same. 
Things different in magnitude may have one and the same 
qualitative definiteness, and conversely — one and the same 
quantitative definiteness may belong to qualitatively 
different things. 

Both the huge Putilov Works and our smallest factory 
are socialist enterprises, just as in Germany a small factory 
and the gigantic Krupp's are both capitalist enterprises. 
We see that the socialist or capitalist quality of an enter- 
prise does not depend on its magnitude. Here at any rate 
quality evidently does not depend on quantity. 

So far then it would appear that quality and quantity 
are radically distinct from each other. If a thing changes its 
basic quality it ceases to be that which it was, it is turned 
into something else. Whereas with a change of quantity 
a thing does not cease to be itself. As Hegel said, quantity, 



unlike quality, is " indifferent " to the definiteness of the 
object. That is why in the early stages of scientific develop- 
ment the quantitative knowledge and the qualitative 
knowledge of things are markedly independent of each 

Even at the most rudimentary stage of development 
social man came into contact with quantitative differences 
of things, even the most primitive practice forced him to 
count and to measure. The primitive savage, reckoning by 
means of pebbles and his fingers, was preparing the first 
beginnings of arithmetic. An important role in this respect 
was played by the emergence of private property and 
the development of exchange. The reckonings of the 
merchant were another step in the history of arithmetic, 
and the landowner in protecting his boundaries was 
revealing the beginnings of geometry. In ancient Egypt 
and Greece we see the first steps of mathematics as a 

However, both among the Greeks and also among the 
Arabs, who developed mathematics even further, the 
study of mathematical relations was very loosely connected 
with the study of particular things and specific properties. 
The application of mathematics was confined to the 
comparatively narrow field of commercial accounts, to land 
measurement and astronomy. While to the alchemists, 
when it was their turn to investigate the properties of things, 
quantitative definiteness appeared a quite non-essential 
aspect of the matter. 

They were interested in what substances and forces made 
up a given thing, and never set the question as to what 
quantities of substances were united together. And we must 
point out that in their way they were right — to apply an 
accurate quantitative measure to undefined and diffuse 
properties and forces was quite impossible. The study of 
the quantitative aspect of things was impracticable without 
a definite level of attainment in the knowledge of their 

The more exactly and accurately we grasp qualitative 


distinctions, the more are we empowered to discover 
definite quantitative relationships. The more deeply we 
reveal the definiteness in which lies the relative stability 
and independence of a thing, the more exactly can we 

measure it. „ 

Only when chemistry progressed from undefined forces 
and propensities to the identifying of actual chemica 
elements-oxygen, hydrogen, etc.-only when chemical 
changes were understood as the necessary mutual actions 
of relatively stable substances, only then was it possible to 
put the question—" what quantity of each substance enters 
into the composition of this or that body ? " 

The discovery of quantitative differences was very fruit- 
ful for science. The knowledge of chemical combinations 
was enriched by a new and extraordinarily important 
aspect. Our knowledge became more comprehensive and 
exact. The possibility of a new approach to the object per- 
mitted the solution of a large number of hitherto insoluble 
questions. For example, with a merely qualitative investiga- 
tion of chemical changes it was not clear in all cases 
whether we were dealing with dissolution or combina- 
tion, with a simpler or a more complex substance. Ihus 
for a long time chemists regarded iron-rust as a simple 
element, and iron as a combination of iron-rust with 
phlogiston. The real relation of iron-rust and iron was dis- 
covered only with the help of weights, by the application 
of quantitative measurement to the processes under study. 
Iron-rust was shown to be heavier than the iron out oi 
which it was formed-and hence iron-rust was shown to 
be a combination of iron and oxygen. And thus by the 
combination of qualitative and quantitative analysis, a 
huge number of simple chemical substances was very 

quickly revealed. . . 

We see the same relation of quantitative and qualitative 
investigation in the history of every science. Only at a 
definite stage of the knowledge of quality does a quantita- 
tive study of concrete things become possible 

Only after the qualities of capitalism and of small-scale 


production, etc., were established, did it appear possible 
to define the degree of the development of capitalism in 
this or that country, by taking into account the quantity 
of goods produced in its factories, the magnitude of the, 
concentration and centralization of capital, the specific 
gravity of the small property still unabolished in the 
particular country by capitalist development. According 
to the degree of the selection of relatively stable qualities 
from the variegated network of social inter-actions, was the 
application of statistics, was the enumeration of social 
phenomena made wider and more fruitful. 

The whole history of social practice shows that only at 
a certain stage of development does knowledge of quantita- 
tive definiteness begin to play an essential role in man's 
recasting of things. Simple activity in relation to particular 
aspects of things gives no basis for an accurate quantitative 
evaluation of the changes being produced. As we know 
particular properties are in themselves unstable and 
relative. By considering them we can, in any given case, 
expect only an approximate, only a more or less probable, 
result. And only in a radical, all-sided recasting of things 
do we obtain the key to their stability and to their changes 
and are we able accurately to define the limits of the 
processes which we are evoking. Mastering the quality of 
the object in its entirety gives us the basis for reckoning the 
quantitative connection between our actions and the results 
which we obtain. 

In the economy of small-scale production and with but 
a narrow circle of social connections, the reckoning of 
quantitative definiteness plays but a small part. The 
peasant and the small craftsmen work " by the eye " with- 
out exact measurements. The development of machine 
production requires a closer determination of quality and 
necessitates accurate measurement and the application of 
mathematics, both in science and production. A modern 
engineer can do very little without the aid of complex 
mathematical calculations. To construct a machine it is 
not enough to master its general qualitative characteristic, 


we must know how to produce an exact quantitative 
reckoning of all its details. _ 

A peasant wishing to know the properties of a soil is 
satisfied by a scrutiny of it, an examination by touch, 
whereas an expert subjects it to a chemical analysis and 
finds out not only what are the ingredients of this soil, but 
also what quantities of them enter into its composition. 
Chemistry has distinguished in the composition of the soil 
a number of more or less stable elements, and therefore it 
is evidently possible to establish in each particular case 
their quantitative relations. In the restricted practice of a 
peasant it is impossible for qualitative study to be sufficiently 
highly developed to make possible an accurate quantitative 
estimate of soil composition ; for this there are needed the 
dimensions of large-scale scientifically organized produc- 

In a planned socialist economy an accurate quantitative 
accounting plays an incomparably greater role than under 
capitalism. The quantitative indices of capitalist production 
and of trade returns reveal naked facts before which capital- 
ists are quite helpless, whereas for us these dry figures 
become an active stimulus and effective guide to action. In 
them are incarnated our fighting slogans, from them 
originates intense class conflict. The percentage of the 
accomplishment of the Five Year Plan, the quantity of 
hectares under crops, the indices of the productivity of 
labour, etc.— in these figures we measure our successes and 
express the extent of the problems lying before us. The 
more widely and deeply socialist planning controls produc- 
tion, and the more we master the particular improvement 
of each branch of our economy, the greater will be the role 
that exact quantitative indices will play. 

And so at a determined stage of the development of 
science and practice the gulf between quantitative and 
qualitative investigation is bridged, their closer connection 
is made apparent and they begin mutually to supplement 
each other. However, the transition to this new stage is not 
accomplished automatically, not of itself; before knowledge 



makes the transition to the study of the quantitative 
definiteness of things, it must go through much preparatory 

" For enumeration, not only are the objects of enumera- 
tion necessary, but also the ability to scrutinize these 
objects, to disregard all their properties except their 
number, and this ability is the product of long historical, 
empirical development." 1 

We say: in such and such a factory there are so many 
workers. Each worker has his own characteristics — there 
are no two people absolutely identical. But when we express 
their common number we disregard their differences. 
Iron-rust, iron itself and oxygen are qualitatively different 
from each other. But when we speak of their quantitative 
relationships we disregard all their differences, we select 
only their common aspect which is expressed in their 

Thus for a quantitative knowledge of things we must, 
firstly, know their qualitative definiteness, since without 
this, comparison itself would be unthinkable; secondly, we 
must find that general thing in their qualitative definiteness 
which permits us to disregard their differences. 

The metaphysic of properties gave no basis for quantita- 
tive investigation for the very reason that it was impossible 
to disclose general characteristics in propensities and forces 
that were sundered from each other. 

As Hegel said, quantity is definiteness without difference. 
To obtain a quantitative characterization of things we 
must find " non-different " features in the things which we 
wish to compare, identical, common features that are not 
fortuitous or non-essential but are such as will allow us to 
determine by their means their quantitative relations and 
the qualities arising out of them. 

The aspect of" non-difference," of identity, in the basic 

quantitative comparison of chemical elements is their 

weight. The great French chemist, Lavoisier, who first 

began consciously to apply the quantitative approach to 

1 Engels, Anti-Dukring. 


chemical phenomena, had first of all to prove the correct- 
ness of comparing elements and their compounds by 
weight, and he did this by his discovery of the. law of the 
conservation of matter; in all chemical changes the weight 
of the elements taking part remains identical, ' non- 
different." Lavoisier's discovery depended on the great 
preparatory work of mechanistic natural research. Lavoisier 
lived in the epoch of the great French revolution and two 
centuries earlier mechanism had, at the beginning at _ the 
Renaissance, insisted, as against the mediaeval metaphysic oi 
properties, on the need of picking out the general the 
identical and, consequently, the measurable in all the 
processes of nature. ' . 

The positive historical problem of mechanism is this— to 
take the first steps to the disclosure of the simplest, quantita- 
tive relations between things themselves, to create a bridge 
between abstract mathematics and the study of concrete 
processes. The natural scientists of the seventeenth century 
picked out velocity, mass and volume as the most simple 
and general aspects of all physical phenomena, to which 
one could apply the quantitative approach. The conversion 
of these aspects into unique essential properties of nature 
led the scientists to a complete negation of qualitative 
distinctions in nature, to a purely quantitative view oi 
the world. The creation of mechanics as a science was 
their great service, yet at the same time, the source ol 
their mechanistic limitations. They showed the mechan- 
istic relations in nature and declared there were no 

" Mechanics knows only quantity. It depends on velocities, 
masses and volume. Wherever it meets with quality— as 
for example in hydrostatics and aerostatics— it cannot 
reach satisfactory results, since it does not lend itself to 
the scrutiny of molecular states and molecular movement. 
Mechanics, therefore, is only an auxiliary science, a propedeutic 
to physics :" 1 

i Engels, Second note of Anti-Duhring. 



On the basis of mechanics, science went on to the 
study of qualitatively unique physical-chemical processes 
in their quantitative definiteness. And here was revealed 
that the " indifference," the " non-difference " of quantity 
to quality is by no means absolute — it has its limitation. 
The study of the different physical states of a substance, of 
the unique forms of energy — heat, electricity, etc., the 
formation of qualitatively different physical combinations- 
all these revealed the internal connection of quantitative 
and qualitative changes. At the beginning of the nineteenth 
century natural science laboured much to disclose this 
connection. Hegel gave to it, although in a distorted 
idealistic form, a general expression as one of the laws of 
development. Finally, in the materialistic dialectic of 
Marxism this law was revealed in all its precision as one of 
the basic laws of the objective world and of knowledge and 
revolutionary practice. 

Let us proceed. Quantitative changes at a determined 
stage lead inevitably to changes of quality. Solid iron may 
be heated in greater or less degree and still remain a piece 
of iron. However, when the heat reaches a certain point it 
causes the iron to melt and enter into a qualitatively differ- 
ent state. Capitalist enterprises though they may be on a 
big or little scale yet have their higher and lower limits of 
magnitude. Complete capitalist planning as between all 
industries is too big a task for capitalism. From the other 
aspect a capitalist undertaking can by no means be as 
small as it likes. 

" Not every sum of money, or of value, is transformable 
into capital; before this transformation can be effected 
there must be a definite minimum of money or exchange- 
value in the hands of an individual owner of money or 
commodities." 1 

This minimum, adds Marx, varies at different develop- 
mental stages of capitalist production and is relatively 
different for each industry. 

Almost every petty-bourgeois dreams of becoming a 
1 Capital, vol. i, chap. ix. 


capitalist. But for him to undergo such a qualitative change 
there is in the majority of cases not sufficient quantity of 
money. The accumulation of money when it does reach the 
determined limit turns the petty-bourgeois into a capitalist, 
into an exploiter of hired labour ; quantitative change leads 
to a change of quality. 

We can show this in the changing of anything, the chang- 
ing of any phenomenon. Every thing on its emergence as 
qualitatively unique is changed quantitatively.^ Up to the 
known limits of quantitative change it remains qualita- 
tively the same, but at the determined stage change of 
quantity leads to change of quality, or, as Hegel said, 
" quantity goes over into quality " ; instead of the former 
quality there appears a new one. 

The transition of quantity into quality is one of the basic 
laws of dialectic. It is the law of emergence of the new, the 
law of development, which shows how in the course of 
gradual changes the leap from one quality to another is 
prepared. Every theory which explains the emergence of 
this or that new thing has this law as one of its most essential 
methodological postulates. 

Bourgeois scientists, though they deny or are ignorant of 
dialectic, are, without knowing it, absolutely forced through 
the influence of their own practice to base their investiga- 
tions on dialectical principles. As Marx and Engels pointed 
out, such an elementary application of the law of transition 
of quantity into quality constituted a whole epoch in the 
history of chemistry. No sooner had this science arrived at 
the stage of the systematic study of the quantitative relations 
of the elements, than before it rose the question of the con- 
nection between the quantitative and qualitative changes 
of substances. 

The celebrated French chemist, Lavoisier, pointed out 
that every chemical compound possesses a determined 
quantitative relation of its elements. Around this question 
raged a fierce controversy. Many chemists were attempting 
to demonstrate that " chemical compounds exist in all pos- 
sible combinations of the constituent elements " and that 



there are no leaps, no breaking of the gradualness in 
chemical processes. The opponents of leaps cited solutions 
and fusions. They did not understand the difference be- 
tween a mixture, in which no new substance emerges, and 
an actual chemical compound, in which a qualitatively new 
substance is formed. A simple mixture of oxygen and hydro- 
gen is possible in any quantitative relation, but in the form- 
ing of the qualitatively new body — water — these two 
elements unite only in definite quantitative proportions. 
Thus between water and the other combination of oxygen 
and hydrogen— peroxide of hydrogen — there are no inter- 
mediate compounds whatever. In the formation of peroxide 
of hydrogen, exactly twice as great a relative quantity of 
oxygen enters into the compound as in the formation of 
water. Not any, but only a definite quantitative difference 
conditions the difference of qualities, of leaps from one 
chemical combination to another. 

In fierce controversy with the upholders of quantitative 
gradualness, the doctrine of the transition of quantitative 
changes into qualitative developed into an harmonious 
chemical theory. The disclosure of the dialectical con- 
nection of quantity and quality allowed the connection 
of a great number of compounds into systematized 
orders. Discussing one of these orders Engels wrote: " We 
thus see a whole order of qualitatively different bodies formed 
by the simple adding of elements, which, however, are 
always in one and the same relation." 1 Marx, in his appli- 
cation of the law of transition of quantity into quality, cited 
in Capital these achievements of chemistry, thereby stressing 
the universal significance of dialectical laws. 

It is, however, quite clear that in the reformulation and 
subsequent application of dialectic by the Marxist the 
content and significance of the law we are discussing 
emerges with incomparably greater precision and fullness 
than in even the most valuable dialectical attainments 
of bourgeois natural research, which remain at an elemen- 
tary level. 

1 Anti-Diikring. 



The working out of the law of transition, of quantity into 
quality reached its highest degree in Leninism. Lenin 
showed more deeply than anyone before him the concrete 
and significant appearance of this law in the course of 
social development ; he also showed its connection with the 
other laws of dialectic. 

As Lenin so often pointed out, dialectic demands the 
scrutiny of every historic moment in all its qualitative 
uniqueness and, at the same time, in unbroken historical 
relationship with the epoch preceding. The methodological 
basis for understanding this historical connection of the 
new quality with the old is the law of transition of quantity 
into quality. We find the most brilliant example of the 
application of this law to the study of concrete development 
in the Leninist theory of imperialism. On the basis of the 
dialectical method Lenin disclosed the uniqueness of the 
imperialist epoch as a continuation, but at the same 
time a qualitatively new stage in the development of 

Imperialism as monopoly capitalism is the necessary 
result of the development of pre-monopoly capitalism. 
From this historical connection, from these premises of the 
development of imperialism, Lenin proceeds in his in- 

" The enormous growth of industry and the remarkably 
rapid process of concentration of production in ever larger 
enterprises represent one of the most characteristic features 
of capitalism." 1 

The growth of industry, the enlarging of undertakings, all 
these are quantitative changes belonging to capitalism. 
They also appear as the premises of the transition of 
capitalism to a qualitatively new stage. " Concentration at 
a certain stage of its development approximates, so to 
speak, closely to monopoly." 2 The emergence of the new is 
prepared by gradual changes of the old. However, that does 
not mean that the transition itself, from the old to the new, 
is accomplished by degrees. Between pre-monopoly 
1 Lenin, Imperialism, ckap. i. 2 Lenin, loc. cit. 



capitalism and imperialism there is not simply a quantita- 
tive difference — in imperialism we have a qualitatively new 
stage of capitalism, opposite in a certain degree to the old. 
In imperialism " certain basic properties of capitalism have 
begun to be turned into their opposite." 

" Free competition is the fundamental property of 
capitalism and of commodity production generally. 
Monopoly is the direct opposite of free competition ; but 
we have seen the latter being transformed into monopoly 
before our very eyes, creating large-scale production and 
squeezing out small-scale production, replacing large- 
scale by larger-scale production, finally leading to such 
a concentration of production and capital that monopoly 
has been and is the result." 1 

Free competition, the basic trait of capitalism, continues 
even in the new epoch to exist alongside monopolies, but 
the emergence of these latter creates a qualitatively new 
degree .in the development of capitalist contradictions. A 
contradictory unity of monopoly and competition lies at 
the basis of the qualitative uniqueness of imperialism. 

The transition to a new quality proceeds through a con- 
flict, in which at a determined stage, there emerges a break, 
a decisive turning, a leap. At the basis of the whole process 
lies a conflict of contradictory tendencies, and that is just 
why the emergence of the new, the transition of the old 
quality into its own opposite, proceeds not as if due to the 
action of an external, alien force but as the result of growth, 
of the, quantitative growing of itself. Free competition 
through the contradictory growth of capitalism leads to its 
own opposite. 

The enemies of dialectic, as also its false foolish " friends," 
depict the dialectical method as a preconceived scheme, as 
a master-key, with whose help it is possible to solve any 
problem directly " out of one's head " — to obtain the 
answer to any question. The Leninist application ' of the 
dialectical laws is a brilliant rebuttal of this gross caricature 
1 Lenin, Imperialism) chap. vii. 


of the dialectical method. Lenin regards the laws of dia- 
lectic not as a preconceived scheme but as the way to an 
understanding of concrete factors, a starting-point for the 
attentive study of objective actuality in its whole historical 
connection. " In order to give the reader as well-grounded 
an impression of imperialism as possible," Lenin cited an 
enormous quantity of facts. The quantitative changes of 
capitalism are for him no abstract phrase, but an object of 
detailed statistical study. He brought forward the most 
detailed statistical data which allow us to see " to what 
extent bank capital, etc., has grown, showing just bw the 
transition from quantity to quality, from developed capital- 
ism to imperialism, has expressed itself." 1 

And by very virtue of this concrete approach, a leap is 
for Lenin not an instantaneous automatic change which 
proceeds on such and such a day and hour, but a whole 
period of intense struggle. With Lenin the important thing 
is to determine, not the day and hour of the "final" 
changing of one quality into another, but the content -of 
the break (what quality is replaced by what) and the 
concrete stages of the struggle in the transition to the new 
quality. " Needless to say, all the boundaries in nature and 
in society are conditional and changing, and it would be 
absurd to dispute, for instance, over the year or decade in 
which imperialism became 'definitely' established." J- 

Based on a huge mass of facts, the Leninist analysis 
discloses the basic line of the development of capitalism 
from free competition to monopolist decay and gives a 
concrete picture of the leap. Free competition, when it has 
reached the recasting stage of its development goes over 
into monopoly. In tense conflict through a- number of 
partial breaking moments the general break in social life is 
accomplished— the leap from the pre-monopolist system Of 
capitalism to imperialism. ■_■■■■ 

" And so, here are the principal phases in the history 
of monopolies: 

1 Lenin, Imperialism. 


(1) 1800-1870. The development to its final limit of 
competition. Monopoly only in its smallest beginnings. 

(2) After the crisis, after 1873 — extended period of the 
development of cartels, but these are not yet of a perma- 
nent nature. They are still a transitory phenomenon. 

(3) The close of the nineteenth century and the crisis of 
1900-1903 — cartels are becoming one of the bases of 
the whole economic life. Capitalism has turned into 




The doctrine of leaps is one of those principles 
of dialectic which have been subjected to severe criticism 
from the revisionist standpoint and also from scientists 
who avowedly take the bourgeois point of view. And it 
is easy to see why. With the question of leaps is closely 
connected the question of social revolution. If everything m 
nature and society develops by decisive qualitative changes 
by leaps, then it must be admitted that capitalism too will 
be inevitably replaced by another social order in the process 
of the working out of scientific laws, and that this will take 
place by means of a leap, which under the conditions of 
capitalism can only be a socialist revolution. Such a per- 
spective is very disagreeable to capitalists and tneir re- 
formist defenders. In seeking to prove that revolutionary 
changes cannot advance us, that revolution is indeed the 
sicbuss of society, a harmful abnormality, bourgeois scientists 
and politicians are defending a theory of purely ^evolu- 
tionary develooment. " Nature does not make leaps —that 
is the basic formula of this theory. All things develop by 
means of slow, continuous changes, by means^of an in- 
crease, a quantitative growth of certain sides of actuality, 
and a decrease of others. In the preceding chapter we saw 
that this theory in essence denies that any development is 
an " emergence of the new," and reflects a limited, meta- 
physical point of view. 

Indeed if there are no leaps then there are also no radical 

changes, and all development amounts merely to quantita- 
tive changes of that which always existed. That which was 



microscopically small has now become big, that which was 
big has become small, but nothing hew, nothing that did 
not exist before in some form, can appear. 

Attempts to advance this view are met with in all fields 
of bourgeois science. We have already mentioned the view 
of certain early chemists on pure continuity in the formation 
of chemical compounds. In their view the appearance of a 
chemically new body is impossible — everything amounts to 
a mechanical mixture of particular elements. Under the 
pressure of fact most chemists have rejected these theories, 
but till this day various bourgeois natural-scientists have 
gone on trying, now in one form now in another, to advance 
the theory of the pure continuity of chemical combinations. 
In biology a thoroughly logical application of the evolu- 
tionary theory of development led to the " theory of pre- 
formation." How can an organism emerge from the 
embryonic form ? Only by way of gradual quantitative 
changes. Therefore the embryo is the same organism, only 
in a folded, miniature form. The embryo of an elephant is 
a little elephant ! This conclusion is quite contrary to fact, 
but the extremely logical " pre-formists " did not stop 
there, they set a new question ; whence emerged the embryo 
itself ? Arguing logically from the premises of pure gradual- 
ism you have to admit that it always existed, i.e. even when 
its mother and ancestors were themselves embryos. Thus 
arose the so-called " Chinese Box " theory ; the embryo 
of every animal contains in ready-made form innumerable 
generations of its descendants, each one packed up in its 
predecessor ! ■ 

The theory was confuted more than a hundred years ago. 
Yet none the less in our day, when it becomes very neces- 
sary for the bourgeoisie to struggle against revolutionary 
dialectic, bourgeois scientists return to this theory once 
again. According to the method of mediaeval alchemists they 
divide an organism into absolutely independent properties 
and declare these properties to have existed from eternity. 
All the development of animals and plants may thus be 
ascribed to the combination, the increase and the decrease 


of these properties. All the properties of the highest animals 
are already contained in ready-made but latent form within 
the simplest organisms. With certain refinements this is 
the same " Chinese Box " theory, the same metaphysic of 
pure evolution, the same denial of the possibility of the 
new and the same " rejection of leaps." In essence such a 
" theory of development " is a bald denial of actual 

In so far as the bourgeoisie is interested in the develop- 
ment of technique it has to take account of facts, and under 
pressure of these facts a number of bourgeois scientists in 
their special departments arrived in an elementary fashion 
at dialectical results. But in their general world-outlook they 
are still opponents of dialectical materialism. And the more 
profound the decay of capitalism, the more do reactionary 
and even superstitious theories swamp the positive achieve- 
ments of scientific investigators. The older metaphysical 
notion of fixed properties is merely carried to a further 
logical stage in evolutionary gradualism, in which form 
it becomes the methodological basis of the bourgeois 
reaction in science and in practice. 

The place of honour in this reactionary metaphysic is 
taken by the social reformists. They also assert that the 
real road to social development lies along the path of slow 
gradual amelioration, i.e. along the -path of reform rather 
than revolution. Capitalism is sick, we must heal it— is all 
they have to say in the world economic crisis (1929-1932). 
It is quite clear that this ancient policy of patching the 
holes of the capitalist system is not the path to socialism, 
but a means of defending capitalism from the revolutionary 
indignation of the workers. That is why an irreconcilable 
struggle for the dialectical understanding of development, a 
pitiless showing-up of the hypocrisy of gradualism (the 
acknowledgment of development in words, the denial of 
it in action)— is the actual political task of our philosophic 


However, we should be quite wrong if in our struggle 
against gradualism we reconciled ourselves with those 


" theorists " who seek to ascribe all development to leaps 
alone. We are against gradualism, but we by no means 
deny that evolutionary, gradual changes play a big role in 
development. As we saw above, a leap is impossible with- 
out a previous quantitative change within the bounds of 
the old quality. 

The ultra-" left," representing the position of extreme 
" revolutionism," want at once to leap out of capitalism 
into communism, without any previous preparation, with- 
out prolonged struggle. These politicians, who express the 
psychology of " a petty-bourgeois driven mad by the 
terrors of capitalism," understand revolution as a sudden 
explosion, which at one blow destroys the old society. 

Like the evolutionists they cannot find in the object itself 
the motive force of its development and are, therefore, 
compelled to seek it outside. They see in such a leap an 
absolute separation of the new from the old, they mechan- 
istically distinguish between gradual preparation of the 
new and a leap. Therefore, they either wait passively for 
a revolution, not knowing how to prepare a revolution 
by an active participation in social struggle, or they seek 
the source of revolution in a subject, in the impulse of a 
person, in the intoxicating inspiration of some miraculously 
gifted revolutionary leader. 

Such an understanding of leaps is purely idealistic, and 
like all idealism, leads directly to superstition. This theory 
which declares the long task of organizing the masses for 
actual revolutionary action to be superfluous and even 
harmful, and distracts the masses from its tasks of preparing 
for the leap, is in essence just as reactionary as the theory 
of evolutionism. It is not without significance that the 
Trotskyist opposition marked its real counter-revolutionary 
character by making use of similar ultra-" left " phrases. 
" Permanent revolution " for all lands without exception, 
according to one recipe ; a socialist conversion at one blow, 
"of planetary dimensions," etc., etc. — what are these but 
ultra-" left " phrases, the only effect of which is to hamper 
real revolutionary activity ? 


For Lenin a correct view on this question involved a 
struggle on two fronts simultaneously. As early as 1 910 he 
was writing: 

" The revisionist regards as mere phrases all arguments 
about ' leaps ' and about the opposition (on principle) of 
the workers' movement to the old society as a whole. 
They accept reform as a partial realization of socialism. 
On the other hand, the anarchist-syndicalist repudiates 
'petty tasks,' especially participation in parliament. 
As a fact, this latter tactic amounts to a mere waiting for 
< great days ' without any knowledge of how to marshal 
or prepare the forces that create great events. 

Both the ' right ' and ' left ' grasp at only one aspect 
of development and, by turning it into a whole, create 
reactionary metaphysical theories. 

But real life, real history, includes in itself these 
different tendencies in just the same way that life and 
development in nature include in themselves both slow 
evolution and sudden leaps, sudden interruptions of 
gradualness " (Lenin) . 

Thus it is impossible to separate evolution and revolution 
from each other. They are necessarily connected together 
and actual development appears as their unity. However, 
we must guard ourselves from a simplified formal under- 
standing of this unity. If we follow the method of the 
Deborin school we shall interpret this unity as follows: 
the Right Wing takes its stand on evolutionism, the Left 
Win°- on revolutionism- Dialectic reconciles these opposites, 
reaching a synthesis of them both. All is well and everyone 

is satisfied ! . 

In a previous chapter we met with this eclectic under- 
standing of the unity of opposites on the part of the Men- 
shevist idealists. As we saw, they put forward, in place of a 
contradiction to be resolved in conflict, the principle of the 
reconciliation of " extremes," and took their stand on_the 
position of a moderate and careful " golden mean." The 


utter futility of this eclectic method is quite evident even 
in application to the given question. By " synthesizing " 
evolutionism and " revolutionism " we shall not reach a 
dialectical unity of evolution and of leaps. Evolution, 
for the very reason of its procedure by leaps, as dictated by 
internal necessity, bears no resemblance at all to the peace- 
ful gradualism of the evolutionists. Just as revolution, too, 
is not at all like its representation by the heroes of " left- 
revolutionary " phrases. Neither these nor others nor even 
the Menshevist idealists understand that what is important 
in this question is that all sides and phases of an evolving 
whole in the course of their development reveal irrecon- 
cilable contradictions. 

Such a dialectic is very like that caricature of it which its 
bourgeois opponents draw. The founders of Marx-Leninism 
never turned the dialectical method into a simple scheme 
but used it as a basis for the concrete study of actuality 
itself- — and in particular for the concrete study of the 
relation of quantity to quality. 

Engels wrote: " Mere qualities do not exist. Only things 
exist which possess qualities, and moreover an infinite 
number of qualities." 1 

As a whole a thing is characterized by a certain basic, 
single quality. But this wholeness, this unity of the thing, 
is always split up into a number of different aspects, parts, 
moments — and this number is in the final reckoning 

" If production in general does not exist " — wrote Marx, 
showing up the empty abstractions of bourgeois econo- 
mists — " then also general production does not exist. 
Production always represents a special branch of produc- 
tion, for example, agriculture, cattle-breeding, manu- 
facture, etc., or some aggregate of them as a whole." 

In its turn every branch of production includes in itself 
a number of subdivisions and parts, a number of technical 
and economic peculiarities and details. 

1 Engels, Foreword to Anti-Dukring. 





And so each quality contains in itself a vast number of 
partial qualitative differences, in each of which the basic 
quality, the general definiteness of the thing is reflected. 
That is why we do not understand the evolutionary prepara- 
tion for a leap merely as a matter of continuity. The 
gradualness of the evolutionary process cannot be repre- 
sented as continuous and it too consists wholly and con- 
tinuously of partial reverses— breaks— leaps, m which the 
separate partial qualities that are included in and reflect 
the general quality of the thing are changed. The transition 
from pre-monopoly capitalism to imperialism is a genuine 
leap in the general course of the development of capitalism 
because in it there is a direct and leap-like change, not of 
capitalism as a whole, but of the previously dominating 
form of the organization of capitalist enterprises and 
capitalist subdivisions. But also these same stages of capitalist 
development, and this same transition between them, 
include in their turn an infinite number of leap-like changes 
of opinions, of yet more partial, more derivative aspects 
of the qualities of capitalism as a whole. Every phase at 
crisis and revival, of war and peace, of the seizing of a new 
market by this or that country and, to speak of smaller 
things, every formation of a new trust, every new demand, 
every '" deal," etc., ad infinitum— -is characterized by a 
definite qualitative uniqueness and is connected through a 
leap with the other correspondingly larger or smaller parts 
of the whole. In nature there is no emergence of new 
qualities that does not contain in itself an infinite number 
of qualitative changes and leaps of subordinated aspects. 
There is no purely uninterrupted development ol_ a 
whole process in its entirety; the change of a basic quality 
of a thing is infinitely subordinated to interrupted changes 
of its aspects. In this continuous interruptedness of the 
infinite number of qualitatively definite aspects of a 
thing proceeds that relatively uninterrupted development 
of its general, basic quality which thus prepares for its 

leap. . , 

" These middle links show merely that m nature there 


are no leaps for the very reason that it consists only of leaps." 1 
The process of socialist construction is uninterrupted for 
the very reason that in the countless number of separate 
improvements, of breaks, right down to the mastery of the 
production of a determined detail in a factory, there pro- 
ceeds the unfolding and strengthening of the one socialist 
quality of new social relations. 

Superficially, inexactly understood, the unity of quantity 
and quality appears thus : at first there are quantitative 
changes — then a change of quality ; in other words, at first 
there are uninterrupted changes — then a leap. There you 
have the unity of opposites, the unity of evolution and of the 
leap, of interruptedness and of uninterruptedness. But 
Engels's approach is far more concrete and profound. 
Engels shows the mutual penetration of these opposites — ■ 
firstly the interruptedness in evolution and then the relative 
uninterruptedness in the connection of the separate links of 
a leap. 

But does not this view approximate by a roundabout way 
to this same gradualism ? As a matter of fact, the social- 
reformist will say, the transition from capitalism to social 
ism does proceed by way of separate small changes, by way 
of partial improvements of reforms of different aspects of 
the capitalist system. So to what end proletarian revolu- 
tion and proletarian dictatorship ? The gradual growing of 
capitalism into socialism must proceed by " slow steps," 
diffidently, in a zigzag. Little drops of socialism must, by 
way of partial changes, trickle into the capitalist system 
until it is all turned into a socialist system. Capitalism grows 
into socialism, because socialism grows into capitalism. 

The reformists slur over what is the main point— the 
irreconcilable oppositeness of capitalism to socialism. 
Capitalism, as a whole, as a system, is opposed to socialism 
and therefore in the limits of this capitalist system no real 
socialist improvements are possible. And yet capitalism 
itself, by changing its aspects, is actually preparing its 
own downfall and transition to socialism. As a qualitatively 
1 Engels, Anti-Duhring. 


unique whole, capitalism possesses a relative stability. 
Partial changes of its properties do not change its basic 
character; nevertheless they make ready the conditions of 
its general crash. Through partial qualitative changes 
proceeds the intensification of the contradictions of capital- 
ism the growth of these contradictions. The qualitative 
changes of the aspects and properties of capitalism are thus 
the expression of the quantitative change of capitalism as 
a whole, of its basic quality, of that quantitative change 
which prepares its general leap. 

Such is the profound internal contradiction of capitalist 
evolution, as of all evolution generally. Engels wrote on this 
issue as follows : 

" If oppositeness belongs to a thing (or to a conception) , 
then in it and also in its expressions in thought, we find a 
contradiction with itself. For instance, in the fact that a 
thing remains the same and at the same time is uninter- 
ruptedly being changed, in the fact that it possesses 
within itself an oppositeness between stability and 
' change,' there lies a -contradiction " (Anti-Duhnng) . 

Not only in the question of the development of capitalism 
does the doctrine of the contradictoriness of quantitative 
and qualitative changes play a big theoretical and practical 
part In every process an internally necessary negation oi 
quality is brought into being by the development and 
strengthening of that process. The more fully and far a 
given quality has been developed and the higher the stage 
of quantitative development it has reached, the more 
clearly are its final limits revealed, the more quickly does 
its negation, does its transition to a new quality, draw near. 
The dialectic of the transitional period shows this contra- 
diction at every step. In socialist construction we pass 
through a number of qualitatively unique steps. In order 
correctly to denote the political line of the transitions of 
one into the other we must evaluate the uniqueness of the 
contradiction of the qualitative and quantitative changes ot 



each of them. Through the present (1932) "artel" form 
of the collective farms we are passing to a higher logical- 
socialist form of agricultural organization. The more fully 
developed the" artel," the quicker the realization of this 
transition. Through the strengthening of the existing stage 
of socialist construction to its negation at a higher stage; 
that is the contradictory formula of our forward movement. 
One of the most important examples of the establish- 
ment and working out of this formula is its application by 
Stalin to the dialectic of the transitional period in the 

Our state is struggling for the abolition of classes. For 
this purpose, by attracting ever wider masses of workers to 
posts of authority, it seeks to wipe out the distinction 
between society and state and approaches ever closer to 
the epoch when, according to Engels's expression " society 
will put the whole state machine in its proper place — 
in the museum of antiquities along with the distaff and the 

But does this mean that in our conditions there is going 
on an uninterrupted and gradual withering away of the 
state, that the successes of socialist construction must lead 
to the gradual weakening of the apparatus of proletarian 
dictatorship ? Wiseacres have been found who understood 
the matter like that, who proposed, along with the develop- 
ment of all-round collectivization, to set about liquidating 
the village Soviets. These wiseacres, like social reformers 
under capitalist conditions, did not understand the contra- 
dictoriness of quantitative and qualitative changes. 

The Soviet state is a state of a special type. In so far as 
the power in it belongs to the majority, i.e. the workers, in so 
far as it was created for the suppression of exploiters, for 
the abolition of classes, it is already not a state in the 
strict sense of the word, it is a half-state, as it was called by 
Lenin. But as long as classes are not yet completely abol- 
ished, so long as the remains of class distinctions among the 
people are preserved, it does not lose its basic character, 
nor in any measure ceases to be a proletarian state, an 


instrument of proletarian dictatorship. As long as the bitter- 
ness of class contradictions continues to grow the state must 
be preserved and strengthened as a " truncheon in the 
hands of the ruling class" (Lenin). The vitality of the 
Soviets, the attraction of the workers to positions of authority, 
etc., are aids to the strengthening of the proletarian state. 
And only through this strengthening can there be progress 
to its ultimate extinction. 

" We are for the withering away of the State. And 
yet we also believe in the proletarian dictatorship, 
which represents the strongest and mightiest form of 
State power that has existed up to now. To keep on 
developing State power in order to prepare the condi- 
tions/or the withering away of State power— that is the 
Marxist formula. It is < contradictory ' ? Yes, ' contra- 
dictory.' But the contradiction is vital, and wholly 
reflects Marxian dialectic. ... 

" Whoever has not understood this feature of the con- 
tradictions belonging to our transitional time, whoever 
has not understood this dialectic of historical processes, 
that person is dead to Marxism." l 

In its struggle for the abolition of classes the Soviet state 
both strengthens itself as a state and prepares its own 
extinction. And until the decisive goal is reached (the com- 
plete abolition of classes and of the remains of class distinc- 
tions), it preserves itself as a state. 

" The completer the democracy, the nearer the moment 
when it will become unnecessary. The more democratic 
the state (which is made up of armed workers and^is 
' already not a state is the strict sense of the word '), 
the more rapidly does every form of the state begin to 

This moment when every form of the state begins to 
decay is the moment of the decisive turn, the beginning 

i Stalin, speech at Sixteenth Congress. 


of the new quality — of society without a state, the beginning 
of the highest phase of communism. This leap is radically 
distinct from the leap between capitalism and socialism. 
There, the leap is accomplished as a revolution, as a pitiless 
conflict of classes. Here, the society of socialist workers is 
freed basically from the marks of its larval stage and 
progresses to a new and higher stage of development. 
In the one the antagonistic contradictions of capitalism are 
resolved in antagonistic conflict. In the other the non- 
antagonistic contradictions of a socialist society already 
subordinated to a plan are resolved by way of development 
in a conflict of the new forms of life. But in both the one 
and the other we see the final limit of the determined 
quality, the decisive turn to the new line of development, 
in both we see the resolution of contradictions. In a word, 
with all the difference of the types, forms and length of leaps, 
everything in the world, both in nature and in society, 
resolves its internal contradictions by way of change of 
quality, by way of a leap. 

The reaching of the final limit is the moment of deepest 
contradiction and at the same time the beginning of its 

And so, as we see, the unity of " gradualism " and " the 
leap " is a contradictory unity that emerges at different 
stages of the development of quality. 

However, the gradualist has in reserve yet another 
objection. Granted, he argues, that a new stage of 
development arises out of the old, yet since nothing arises 
out of nothing, it follows that in the evolutionary changing 
of the old there are already being created the basic elements 
of the new and therefore the transition from one degree 
to another is an uninterrupted process, a process of the 
gradual growing of one quality into another. The stupid 
Bolsheviks, say the reformists, are smashing capitalism and 
wish to construct a socialist society without creating the 
elements of socialism within the shell of the capitalist 
system, and since out of nothing, nothing arises, the Bolshevist 
" experiment "is foredoomed to failure. As a matter of 


fact this promised failure is not evident, and the gradualists 
in the camp of the enemies of the U.S.S.R. are like bad 
jugglers, whose tricks, promised to the public, have not 
been a success. They would like to create the " failure " 
of the Bolsheviks before the eyes of this same " public " 
with the aid of direct injury and even intervention. 

It is true, of course, that nothing emerges from nothing. 
The properties which become elements of the new quality 
are actually created in the old. But until the basic connec- 
tions of the old quality are broken these properties belong 
wholly to the old and in no measure denote the gradual 
growing of one quality into another. These properties are 
contradictory. Within the bounds of the old they include 
in themselves only premises for the emergence of the new, 
and are only a condition of the leap, and only through a 
radical break, through a leap, do they become elements of 
the new. 

The raising of the temperature of water is accompanied 
by the quickened movement of its particles. In this way 
the free movement of the particles of steam is prepared. 
But until the boiling point is reached the movement of 
particles remains within the bounds of the old connec- 

Capitalism, by creating big-scale industry, by giving 
to it an ever more clearly expressed social character, is 
preparing the premises of socialism and, in spite of the 
hypocritical assertions of the reformists, had already 
prepared them a long time ago. But until the decisive 
limit is reached, until private property in the means of 
production is abolished, this large-scale industry remains 
capitalist. In this process of socializing production the 
capitalistically exploited working class is formed and 
united. It appears as the carrier of the progressive tendency, 
the tendency to socialization, which leads capitalism to 
negation, to a revolutionary leap. That was why Lenin 
spoke of the " opposition (on principle) of the workers* 
movement to the old society as a whole." 

The process of the development of capitalist production 



" develops, organizes, disciplines the workers." But at the 
same time, capitalism " crushes, oppresses and leads them 
to debasement and poverty," corrupts them with bribes, 
separates them by the forces of capitalist competition and 
national conflict. The working class develops its socialist 
qualities within the frame of capitalism, not by creative 
" flowerets " of ready-made socialistic culture, as the 
reformists suppose, but by organizing itself for decisive 
struggle against the capitalist system as a whole. Only by 
such a struggle can it purify itself from the vices and con- 
tradictions of capitalism and only in the epoch of its 
domination can the socialist traits of the workers became 
actual elements of socialist culture. 

" Capitalism itself creates its own grave-digger, itself 
creates the elements of the new order, and yet without a 
' leap ' these different elements change nothing in the 
general position of things, do not begin to touch the domina- 
tion of capital." 1 

The changes of different aspects in the bounds of capital- 
ism do not change capitalism as a system, yet they create 
conditions for the emergence of the new social order. 

Does this mean that all partial changes are non-essential, 
that the working class must refuse to struggle for them ? 
By no means. If we deny any significance to partial changes, 
we should pass to the other extreme and deny the contra- 
dictoriness of development and thus occupy the position of 
the heroes of the " left " phrases. 

Conducting the struggle on two fronts,. Lenin stressed 
the ambiguous, contradictory character of reforms and 
all partial changes within the bounds of capitalism. 

The reformists by clutching at different fragments of 
so-called socialist relationships that emerge under capitalism, 
for example, democracy, co-operatives, etc., create a whole 
order of theories of socialist growth — " constructive," 
'" co-operative," and many other kinds of" socialism." 

At the first glance they appear to be right. In fact, 
co-operation surely is for us an element of socialism. Do we 
1 Lenin, Dissensions in the European Workers' Movement. 


not say that the growth of co-operation is identical with the 
growth of socialism ? Yet, as Lenin shows, co-operation 
within the system of capitalism and co-operation within the 
system of proletarian dictatorship — are two quite different 

"A co-operative is a shop-counter and let there be what- 
ever changes, perfectings, reforms you will, the fact remains 
that it is a shop-counter. That lesson has been taught to 
socialists by the capitalist epoch. And there is no doubt that 
it was a correct expression of the essence of the co-operatives 
as long as they remained as an insignificant appendage to 
the mechanism of the bourgeois order. But it also follows 
that the position of the co-operatives is radically and in 
principle changed, from the time that the proletariat wins 
state power, from the moment when the proletarian state 
power advances to a systematic creation of socialist laws 
and regulations. Here quantity goes over into quality. 
A co-operative, in the form of a little island in a capitalist 
society, is a shop-counter. A co-operative, if it embraces 
all society in which land has been socialized and factories 
and works nationalized, is socialism " (Lenin). 

As we see, without a revolutionary leap in the ownership 
of the means of production, co-operative organizations in 
no degree begin to encroach upon the domination of 
capital. Yet at the same time workers' co-operatives, even 
in the conditions of capitalism, are a school that teaches 
the workers solidarity and organization. But in the condi- 
tions of proletarian dictatorship, co-operation emerges as 
an " element " of the new order. How is this contradiction 
resolved ? 

The correct resolution of the question lies only in conflict, 
in the inclusion of the workers' co-operation as a link in the 
general chain of the conflicts with capitalism, in using it as 
one of the organizations for preparing revolution. We must 
look on it not as the beginning of socialism, but as a 
school to teach the workers solidarity in conflict, and as a 
means of economic support of the proletariat in the time of 


Thus, once again, we are persuaded of the correctness 
of the Leninist thought that only the theory of irreconcilable 
conflict of mutually exclusive opposites, only the dialectical 
law of contradiction " gives the key to ' leaps,' to the 
' interruption of gradualness,' to the ' conversion ' into an 
opposite, to the abolition of the old and the emergence of 
the new." 

Our citation of co-operation enables us to draw yet one 
more conclusion. As we pointed out, a workers' co-operative 
under capitalism can at times better the position of a 
particular group of workers. Thus it resolves a certain 
partial contradiction in the lives of some of the proletariat. 
However, is this partial victory in any degree a resolution 
of the general contradiction of capitalism — i.e. of the 
contradiction between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie ? 
It is not. On the contrary, this partial success intensifies 
this general contradiction even more. In fact it inevitably 
increases the pressure from the side of the capitalists and 
with its limitations and lack of permanence reveals to the 
workers that the basic root of their growing impoverishment 
and oppression lies in the existence of the capitalist owner- 
ship of the means of production. 

Those who would interpret these fundamental principles 
in such a way as to find in the partial successes of the workers 
a path to the reconciliation of capitalism and socialism 
create the illusion that these successes lead to the reconcilia- 
tion of class contradictions. But sooner or later, under the 
leadership of the revolutionary party, the workers become 
conscious of the actual objective result of partial successes, 
a result which mercilessly shows up the reconciliatory hoax. 

In fact the resolution of partial contradictions within the 
framework of capitalism and the struggle for their resolu- 
tion are the way to intensify and deepen the general 
contradiction of the capitalist system. 

And the more quickly the communists succeed in joining 
up the struggle for partial aims with the single line of 
preparing the masses for the decisive leap, the sooner will 
this leap arrive. 


Lenin wrote: 

" The relation of reforms to revolution is rightly 
determined by Marxism alone. Reforms are the col- 
lateral product of the revolutionary class conflict of 
the proletariat. For the whole capitalist world this 
relation is the fundamental ground of the revolutionary 
tactic of the proletariat— the A.B.C. which the venal 
leaders of the Second International distort and obscure." 1 

1 Lenin, On the Importance of Gold. 


JtiEGEL, in his exposition of his idealistic dialectic 
as a theory of the development of absolute spirit, character- 
ized the transition of quantity into quality in the following 
terms : 

" It is indeed never at rest, but carried along the 
stream of progress ever onward. But it is here as in the 
case of the birth of a child ; after a long period of nutrition 
in silence, the continuity of the gradual growth in size, 
of quantitative change, is suddenly cut short by the first 
breath drawn — there is a break in the process, a qualita- 
tive change — and the child is born. In like manner the 
spirit of the time, growing slowly and quietly ripe for the 
new form it is to assume, loosens one fragment after 
another of the structure of its previous world. This 
gradual crumbling to pieces, which did not alter the 
general look and aspect of the whole, is interrupted by 
the sunrise, which, in a flash and at a single stroke, brings 
to view the form and structure of the new world." 1 

In spite of all the profound idealism of Hegelian thought 
there has been correctly indicated one of the wholly 
essential aspects of the leap, namely that moment of the 
radical change in the course of development, in the course 
of the break, which shows the completeness of the new 

In the birth of a child such a moment is its first inhalation, 
when for the organism as a whole begins a new stage of 

1 Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit. 


The moment of break in the agitated conversion of a 
given mass of water into steam is the boiling point, when as 
small an addition of heat as you like will create at once the 
beginning of a qualitatively new process. 

" Water through cooling does not become hard 
gradually, i.e. by becoming cold first and then gradually 
hardening to the consistency of ice, it becomes hard all 
at once; when it reaches the freezing point it can still 
remain in its fluid state if kept in a state of rest, but the 
slightest jolt will convert it into a solid." 1 

In socialist revolution such a movement is the grasping 
of power by the proletariat and the approach to the orga- 
nization of socialist economy. In the " years of the great 
break " such a moment is the beginning of the liquidation 
of the kulaks as a class. 

However, is the transition of one quality into another 
fully explained by this moment ? Can one ascribe the leap 
to this moment of break alone ? Menshevist idealists answer 
this question affirmatively. Pushing Hegel's thought to its 
extreme, they regard a leap as momentary, as essentially 
timeless, as an act which brings forth a new quality at one 
stroke. In this conception of the leap they have united 
themselves with the ultra-revolutionists of the " Left," with 
anarchists and all those other " left " phrase-mongers, who 
express the leap as a sudden emergence of the new, without 
any complexity. The specious " leftness " and revolution- 
ariness of this view conceals within itself, however, a quite 
opportunist negation of the contradictoriness of develop- 
ment. In fact, as we explained above, the transition from 
one quality to another, the leap, is a process of resolving 
contradictions, a process of the destruction and breaking 
of the old system and of emergence of the new. It is quite 
clear that this process is impossible without a more or less 
lengthy conflict, without a complex task involving destruc- 
tion and creation. 

1 Cited by Lenin from Hegel's Science of Logic. 


The " left " communists of the Brest Litovsk 1 epoch, 
in proposing to carry on a revolutionary war against 
imperialist Germany, proceeded . from the following 
position : If the time for the leap from capitalism to socialism 
had arrived, then the swift victory of revolution all over the 
world was assured; if not, then in any case the ruin of 
Soviet power was inevitable. That is the defeatist conclusion 
at which the "Lefts " arrive when they regard the leap 
as an automatic instantaneous act. Either, in a flash of 
" poetic " revolutionary: lightning, to conquer the whole 
world at one stroke, or— all is lost ! The resolution of actual 
contradictions is by no means so easy to accomplish, is by 
no means so decisive. 

In the first months of the revolution Lenin wrote concern- 
ing this view: 

"The whole originality of the position we are living 

• through from the point of view of many who wish to be 

regarded as socialists is this, that people have become 

accustomed to oppose capitalism to socialism and between 

the two have in the profundity of their thought set the 

word ' leap ' (some of them, remembering snatches of 

Erigels they have read, have added with still more mental 

• profundity : ' The leap from the kingdom of necessity to 

: the kingdom of freedom '). Of the fact that the teachers 

' of socialism denoted by 'leap' a break as regarded 

from the angle of the changes of world history and that 

leaps of such a type occupy periods of years— ten or even 

more— of this fact the majority of so-called socialists, who 

have studied their socialism in a ' little book ' but have 

never seriously penetrated into the matter, have no 


_ x Brest Litovsk. Early in 1918 the Soviet delegates met the representa- 
tives of the Central Powers at Brest Litovsk. It was soon made clear that 
the Germans wished to conclude an oppressive peace. Trotsky, who led 
the Russians, refused to sign and the Germans denounced the armistice 
and marched into Russia. After a series of debates Lenin got a majority 
in the Central Executive for signing the treaty even though the condi- 
tions then imposed were worse than before. The treaty was signed on 
March 3rd, 191 8. It was annulled after the armistice of November 
nth, 1918. 



The first breath of a child is the first manifestation of 
his independent vitality, but the act of giving birth is 
much more than that. " The birth of a child is such an 
act as turns a woman into a tortured, rent, pam- 
maddened, bleeding, half-dead piece of flesh." As Lenin 
indicated in the same passage, " one ought to compare 
revolution with the act of birth. Births are sometimes easy, 
sometimes difficult. Marx and Engels, founders of scientific 
socialism always spoke of the long birth pangs inevitably 
connected with the transition from capitalism to socialism." x 
A leap is a profoundly contradictory process. A leap by 
resolving the contradictions of the old quality denotes the 
prolongation of the same conflict in a new, far more 
intensified form. In a leap we find the immediate unity, 
the immediate coincidence of destruction of the old and 
creation of the new, of negation and affirmation. The 
conflict of the contradictions of the old system brings it to a 
crisis, and in the crisis the new is bom. The birth originates 
out of destruction, the very act of the birth and the process 
of the development of the new are the destructive work of an 
enormous force. Without an irreconcilable, pitiless negation 
nothing new can emerge; in this lies the dialectic of every 
revolutionary change. Gorky characterizing Lenin's atti- 
tude to actuality, wrote: "Life is made up with such 
diabolical ingenuity, that if you cannot hate, it is impossible 
sincerely to love." 

This spirit of implacable negation, proper to all revolu- 
tionaries and creators of the new, excites the deep dis- 
pleasure of the modern " healers of capitalism "—the social 
reformists. Revolution leads to destruction, revolution is 
barbarism, they declare. 

The fact that revolution is allied with destruction, with 
a temporary decline in the development of productive 
forces, is not denied by any authentic revolutionary. But 
whoever has not the manliness to take part in this destructive 
labour, the same is inevitably destined to become a de- 
fender of what is dead and decomposing. 

1 Lenin, Incidental Questions of the Soviet Power. 



3 r 5 

Revolution is not empty, thoughtless destruction. On the 
contrary, it is for the very reason that revolutionaries follow 
an objective line of social development and pursue the 
path towards the emergence of a new quality, that 
-their action possesses a force destructive to the old 

The real threat to the capitalists is not in the suppositi- 
tious bombs and the Tcheka but in the successes of socialist 
construction in the U.S.S.R. 

And so the birth of the new takes place in the contra- 
dictory mutual penetration of destruction and of the 
new quality that issues during this destruction. In itself 
the birth of the new far from exhausts the transition 
of one quality into another. When the first molecules 
of water fly out into the air this by no means yet denotes 
the conversion of water into its gaseous state- The 
decisive turn has begun, the new connection of particles 
has been indicated, but this new connection, at the 
moment of birth, exists only in embryo. In October 1917, 
we witnessed a decisive change which opened the way 
towards a new system of social laws transforming the entire 
world, but before every department of world society is 
completely dominated by this new quality, before this new 
quality is completely actualized, there must be a long 
period of fierce conflict with what is being destroyed. 

" The transitional period cannot fail to be a period 
of struggle between dying capitalism and nascent 
socialism, or in other words, between conquered but not 
annihilated capitalism and nascent but still feeble 
communism. 1 


" When a new thing has just been born, the old 
always remains for some time the stronger. It is always 
thus both in nature and social fife." 2 

1 Lenin, Economics and Politics in the Epoch of Proletarian Dictatorship. 
s Lenin, The Great Beginning. 


At the moment of its birth the new is feebler than the 
old ; its feebleness depends on the degree of its immaturity. 

" It is to be expected, that the achievement of the new 
cannot at once give us those firm established, almost 
stagnant and rigid forms, which were long ago created, 
have grown to strength, been preserved through the 
centuries. At the moment of birth the elements of the 
new are still found in the period of fermentation and 
utter instability." 1 

The feeble new enters into conflict with the stronger old. 
But is it possible that the strong should be conquered by 
the weak? — asks the formalist-metaphysician, for whom 
every contradiction is an absurdity. This contradiction arid 
this victory are both facts of living dialectical development, 
and cannot be brushed aside by formal arguments. 

The point of the matter lies in this, that socialism at the 
beginning of its development is weaker only in the degree 
of its development, only because it is immature, but from 
the very first day of its existence it is stronger according to 
type, stronger as a. new, more progressive quality, free from 
those contradictions before which the capitalist system has 
already showed itself powerless. 

That is why the new order appears finally as the victor, 
that is why it can conquer only by concentrating on its 
elements of real superiority and developing them with the 
utmost speed. That is why every step of socialist advance 
makes the fate of capitalism ever more hopeless, notwith- 
standing the ever more intense opposition of the capitalists. 
The basic slogan for the conflict of the two systems — 
" in the shortest historical period to catch up and excel 
the leading capitalist countries in technique and economic 
development "—means nothing else than the task of making 
socialism stronger than world capitalism, not only in type, 
but also in the level of development, in the degree of the 
developing of its latent possibilities. . 
1 Lenin, sketch for the article " Incidental Tasks of the Soviet Power." 



A socialism that is at its beginning weaker than capitalism 
cannot conquer with one blow. It conquers by the fact that 
at every particular moment it reveals its qualitative advan- 
tages, in that portion of the conflict which is decisive at 
that moment. Whence there is a certain irregularity in its 
advance, whence the number of qualitatively unique 
stages in its conflict with the old system. 

" The actual interest of an epoch of great leaps is this, 
that the ruins of the old are sometimes far more numerous 
than the new, often barely visible beginnings, and this 
situation demands skill in picking out what is most 
essential in the line of development. There are historic 
moments when for the success of a revolution it is more 
important than any other consideration to accumulate 
the, greatest possible number of ruins, i.e. to blow up as 
many of the old institutions as possible ; there are moments 
when enough has been blown up, and it is time for the 
' prosaic ' (' boring ' is the term for the petty-bourgeois 
revolutionary) task of clearing the ground of the debris ; 
there are moments when a careful tending of the first 
beginnings of the new, which is growing among the ruins 
of the old on a soil still badly cleared of its rubble, is more 
important." 1 

That was how Lenin in 19 18 characterized the particular 
stages of the transition to socialism. 

The transitional period is the " great leap " itself and 
contains a number of transitional periods, a number of 
breaks, of leaps from stage to stage : the transition from 
war communism to N.E.P., the transition from the N.E.P. 
to the period of reconstruction, the " great break " of the 
country-side to the side of collectivization in 1929, the 
entry into the period of socialism, these are all clear ex- 
amples of those leaps in which our epoch of the " great 
leap " is so rich. 

Moreover the last stage of the transition period is at 
1 Lenin, vol. xxii. 


the same time the first stage of victorious socialist society. 

By assuring the victory of socialism in our country along the 

whole line, '• 

" we have already issued from the transition period in 
the old sense of the word, and have entered into the 
period of a direct and developed socialist construction 
along the whole front. We have entered into the period 
of socialism, because the socialist sector now holds in its 
hands all the economic levers of the whole popular 
economy." 1 

Socialism has ceased to be an embryo. It has become, in a 
remarkable degree, a developed analysed quality that rules 
in the social life of our country. And as the Seventeenth 
Party Conference showed, we 1 shall in the course of the 
second Five Year Plan abolish classes and construct a 
full socialist society. 

As we see, the concrete picture of a leap bears no resem- 
blance to petty-bourgeois, idealistic, Utopian,"" leftist " 
revolutionism. In each leap we distinguish the particular 
stages of the conflict, we find in it a unique mutual-pene- 
tration of the interruptedness and uninterruptedness of 
development. The dissolution of the contradictions of 
the old system in the conflict of the new quality with the 
old makes up the basic content of such a leap. 

1 Stalin, concluding remarks of speech at Sixteenth Congress. 



1 o attain to concrete knowledge we must not ascribe 
everything in the world to quality or to quantity but must 
explain the mutual connection and mutual transitions of the 
qualitative and quantitative defmitenesses in every process. 
As Lenin showed, the dialectical law that connects quantity 
with quality is only an example, a partial case of a more 
general principle which he formulated as follows: "Not 
only is there unity of opposites, but there are transitions 
of every definition, quality, trait, aspect, property into 
each other (into their opposites)." In this formulation it 
is easy to recognize the eoncretization and development 
of this same unity and the mutual-penetration of opposites. 
The relation of quantity and quality is mutual, " each side 
passes over into each other." 

In actuality there is no such thing as quantity in general. 
There exists only the quantity of a determined quality. 
A mere number in itself says nothing to us about a thing 
until we know what this thing is and from what aspect 
and how it was measured. Two tons of iron and two motor- 
cars are by no means equal, although for the purpose of 
mathematical operations which are abstracted from con- 
crete things two is unconditionally equal to two. Number 
unaccompanied by a knowledge of quality conveys nothing. 
But that which is clear to all in any example taken from 
life is by no means so evident to scientists and upholders 
of pure mathematics with their complex theoretical con- 


It is by no means by chance that only at a determined 
sta^e of knowledge of qualities can every science putthe 
question of the quantitative aspect of the processes it is 
studying. We saw above that chemistry could disclose 
the frmtfulness of the qualitative approach to elements 
only when these elements themselves were to a certain 
degree known and distinguished from each other. But as 
soon as the means of measuring chemical processes were 
discovered, chemists who had formerly been indifferent 
to quantity turned the quantitative approach into an 
absolute. In the majority of works on the history of chem- 
istry everything that was done before this change of attitude 
is treated with the greatest contempt. Before Lavoisier 
people never dreamed about quantitative definiteness; 
if only they had done so two or three centuries earlier the 
history of chemistry would have been very different. That 
is the attitude and it is injudicious. Anyhow it is quite 
clear that by becoming worshippers of pure quantity 
chemists were cutting down the trunk by which they were 
climbing up. Contempt of quality became an obstacle 
to the future development of knowledge; it deprived the 
quantitative method of its necessary qualitative basis. 
The study of the quantitative aspect of things is m direct 
dependence on the depth and accuracy of the knowledge 
of their qualities. The physics of recent tunes was able 
to widen the application of mathematics, as it has done, 
only by accurately distinguishing between the quahtative 
uniqueness of the elements of matter and energy— atoms, 
electrons, quantum, etc. But at the same time owing to 
an unfortunate lapse into a metaphysical point of view on 
the part of bourgeois scientists this "great success ot 
science, its discovery of the homogeneous and simple 
elements of matter, whose laws of motion are subject 
to formula, caused matter to be forgotten by the 
mathematicians." 1 

Except by ignoring the material and its qualities, it is 
impossible to turn the application of mathematics into a 
i Lenin, Materialism and Empirio-Criticism, chap, v, sec. 8. 



basic method of investigation. Mathematical calculations 
and formulae play in the actual study of an object a subor- 
dinate role, because they must always be secondary to the 
known quality of the thing. By turning mathematics 
into a basis of knowledge we adopt a procedure that leads 
only to a barren play of figures that mean nothing, a 
sophistry that enables us to prove anything however absurd. 
This secondary importance of mathematics is specially 
stressed in the difference of the role which it plays in the 
various sciences. The more simple the qualities that are 
being studied by this or that science, and the more apparent 
and external the relations between the elements of the 
process, and furthermore the greater the consequent ease 
with which these elements can be distinguished from each 
other, the wider is the scope of mathematical application. 

Mathematics studies quantity, i.e. external defimteness. 
Mathematical operations presuppose a certain stability 
and independence of those things whose number and 
measurement is required. And the less their stability and 
independence are, the more complex are those mathematical 
operations which are needed for the study of the quantita- 
tive defimteness. 

It is very easy and quite necessary to apply mathematical 
calculations to machines, which work according to a 
definite, exactly established pattern, whose separate parts 
have been made and assembled in a purely external 
fashion. But try to submit the life of an organism to the 
mathematical analysis and you will see that the fluidity 
and continuous mutual connectedness of vital processes 
convert your calculations into an empty play with mathe- 
matical symbols. 

In astronomy and physics the application of mathematics 
has from ancient times held a very important place. 
Chemistry from Lavoisier's time has studied quantitative 
relations, but the application of mathematics was limited 
to simple arithmetical processes. Only in recent times 
on a basis of studying the deeper aspects of chemical 
processes has the field of mathematical calculations in 


chemistry been extended. But in one way or another the 
application of mathematics in this science occupies a place 
distinct in principle from its place in physics ; it plays here 
a far more subordinate role. Chemical processes are more 
complex and the complete connection of their different 
aspects has been expressed in a much clearer manner 
than is possible by mathematical means. 

Even more subordinate and restricted is the role of 
mathematics in the biological and still more in the social 

Marx made use of mathematical formula;, but he never 
substituted them for an investigation of the quality of 
economic processes. On the contrary, these formulae 
served him only as an auxiliary means of illustration 
and for a more accurate expression of basic economic 

Quantitative definiteness is just as essential in social 
development as in anything else, but among social pheno- 
mena the connection of quantity and quality is markedly 
more complex and close and therefore the abstract and 
complex formulae of modern mathematics, which have 
been devised for the solution of physico-mechanical and 
technical problems, are less applicable for dealing with 
the quantitative side of social processes. That is why the 
philosophy of pure mathematics is especially artificial in 
the realm of social sciences. 

In bourgeois political economy and sociology, mathe- 
matics emerges very often as the tool of plain political 

One of the favourite methods of bourgeois scientists is 
the calculation of the average magnitude of a collection 
of different items. For example, if they want to know 
whether the standard of living of the peasantry is improving 
or not, they find out and add up the incomes of all the 
peasant economic units, and so work out the average 
income of a peasant's farm. They compare such magni- 
tudes for different years and demonstrate that capitalism 
in small-scale agriculture is not developing. It is easy to 



show that the root of this false conclusion lies in a wrong 
approach to the unit under consideration. 

"It is supposed that by uniting together into a unit 
the workers and the master farmers and thus arriving at 
an average income-budget it is possible to demonstrate 
a condition of { moderate satisfaction ' and of a ' moder- 
ate net income.' But the average is quite fictitious. It 
merely covers up the utter poverty of the mass of lower 
peasantry " (Lenin). 

Figures obtained like that only obscure and confuse the 
picture of the actual position of the countryside. 

" Instead of a study of the types of peasant economy 
(the day-labourer, the- middle peasant, the big land- 
owner) they study, with the ardour of lovers, endless 
columns of figures as if it were their aim to astound the 
world with their arithmetical zeal " (Lenin). 

This empty " play with ciphers " this " arithmetical 
zeal " expresses the definite class setting of those who like 
to underestimate the development of kulakism in the 
countryside. ... It is not without significance that critics 
of Soviet policy made considerable use of this method 
when they openly voiced the interests of the kulaks. Statis- 
tics play a great part in science and in practice, but in 
order correctly to make use of numerical data we must 
proceed from the qualitative differences of the enumerated 

As we have seen in all the material we have been analys- 
ing, the only way to knowledge is first carefully to study 
quality, then quantity, and finally to restudy quality on 
the basis of all the data. The dialectical way of knowledge 
is a reflection of the law of objective development. In the 
development of material actuality quality and quantity are 
inseparable. They presuppose and penetrate each other 
and their unity is expressed in continual mutual transitions. 
Not only does quantity go over into quality, but also the 


reverse — quality goes over into quantity, the quality of a 
process defines the line, the character and the tempo of its 
quantitative changes. 

Let us return to concrete facts. In the transition from 
small-scale production to capitalist manufacture there 
took place at first the union of many tradesmen within 
one workshop. " The workshop of the guild master only 
widens its dimensions. ... At first there is only a quanti- 
tative difference " (Marx). 

However, at a determined stage quantity goes over into 
quality — the joint work of many workmen in a capitalist 
undertaking is qualitatively distinct from small-scale craft. 
And this new quality creates a new quantity. The co- 
operation of many persons, the fusion of many separate 
forces into one common force creates — as Marx puts it — 
a new " force," which is essentially distinct from the sum- 
mation of the particular forces that compose it. Whence 
does this new force appear, wherein lies the source of the 
magnification of the productivity of work ? Quite evidently 
in that new quality which belongs to large-scale production. 
The new quality has created a new quantity, quality has 
gone over into quantity. 

We see this same dialectical transition in the example of 
our collective farms. 

" The simple concentrations of the peasants' imple- 
ments within the collective farms has had an effect not 
contemplated on the basis of our earlier experience. 
How was this effect manifested ? In the fact that the 
transition to collective-farming methods gave an increase 
of the area under crops of from 30 per cent to 40 per cent 
and even 50 per cent. How do we explain this astounding 
result ? By the fact that the peasants, who were powerless 
under the conditions of individualistic work, have been 
converted into a very great power by the concentration 
of their implements and by uniting into collective 
farms." 1 

1 Stalin, on the question of agrarian policy in U.S.S.R. 



Metaphysicians separate quantity and quality, where- 
as in vital developments these categories are all the time 
making transitions into each other. Opportunists on the 
question of the transition of quality into quantity, as in 
everything else, take up a metaphysical view-point. Both 
the counter-revolutionary, Trotsky, and the Right- oppor- 
tunists united themselves in. defence of the theory of the 
declining curve of our economic growth. They asserted 
that with the transition from the restoration period to the 
period of reconstruction 1 the tempo of the development 
of industry would be continually lowered and would at 
last fall to the " normal " rate of increase, namely, that at 
which industry in capitalist countries develops. We have 
seen how drastically actual experience has treated this 
theory. Our tempo is determined by the qualitative 
advantages of planned socialist economy; the course of the 
qualitative changes of socialist production cannot fail to 
be different in principle from the growth of capitalism. 
The methodological root of the theory of the declining 
curve lies in the negation of the dialectical transition of 
quality into quantity. 

A correct understanding of this transition plays a big 
role in the practical tasks of constructing a socialist economic 
order. In addressing the directors of Soviet industrial 
undertakings Stalin has pointed out a number of cases 
where the plan of developing industry has been unfulfilled 
because of inability to understand what new systems of 
working are possible under socialist construction. In his 
slogan of mastering technique in his Six Conditions 2 he 
showed the actual way to fulfil the quantitative indices of 
our plans, the way to achieve a Bolshevist tempo in socialist 
construction. Our successes have created a qualitatively 
new state of affairs,- the new position demands a new 

1 Restoration period— reconstruction period. From the end of the " war 
communism " period, during which foreign intervention had to be faced, 
down to the beginning of the Five Year Plan the national economy was 
undergoing restoration assisted by the New Economic Policy. The Five 
Year Plan initiates the period of socialist reconstruction. 

2 Six Conditions. See Note on p. 1 70. 


quality of work, a new quality of direction, a qualitatively 
new approach to the organization of work on production, 
to the training of specialists, to the function of the old type 
of specialists, to the sources of accumulation in industry, 
etc. The way to raise the tempo is to master this new 
quality of work. 

Meanwhile, certain metaphysicians and simple-minded 
directors think that the whole matter can be settled by a 
clamour about tempo, by simple, mechanical administra- 
tive pressure, by a campaign successfully conducted to the 
end of the month or quarter, etc. Nothing is obtained by 
such an approach except the exchange of practical work 
for cheap and empty exhortations. Anxiety over high 
tempo if it is not based on a concrete study of the quality 
of the given production, if it is not based on a thoughtful 
and serious organization of the business side of production, 
is abstract, empty and impotent, like the numerical con- 
jurings of mystics, like the " arithmetical zeal " of the 
bourgeois economists. 

We repeat, the key to actual Bolshevik tempo lies in that 
change of the quality of work which is to be brought about 
by fulfilling the six conditions of Stalin, by studying the 
qualitatively unique conditions and possibilities of every 
branch of production, by showing a creative initiative in 
the organization of every qualitatively unique matter. 
" Write what resolutions you will, swear by what words 
you like, if you do not master the technique, the economics, 
the finances of the works, the mine, the factory — all will be 
fruitless." 1 

Stalin in his masterly and profound treatment of the 
question of the tempo of socialist construction, has over and 
over again showed the great importance of the dialectical 
materialist method in the proletarian revolution. Directors 
must learn the dialectic of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin, 
for without dialectic Bolshevik direction is impossible. 
And so in the reverse transition, in the transition of quality 
into quantity, we have approached from a new side the 
1 Stalin, speech on the mastery of technique. 




unity of quantity and quality, thus making concrete once 
again the unity of opposites. The problem of knowledge is 
not limited by the disclosure of the quality of a thing, just 
as it is not exhausted by the establishing of its quantitative 
characteristic — the point of the matter is in the transition 
of quality and quantity into each other. Only by disclosing 
the peculiarity of the transition in every phenomenon do 
we know an object in its self-movement, in its vital and 
concrete development. 

The resolution of the contradictions between quality and 
its particular level in the evolutionary process, its degree 
of development, is at the same time an intensification of 
that contradiction, which reveals the final limit of the 
quality and leads to a new leap. The higher the degree of 
the development of the given quality, the more clearly is 
its limitation revealed, the more clearly the premises and 
tendencies of the new emerge in it, tendencies which cannot 
develop within its confines and are preparing the leap to 
the new quality. The overcoming of the remnants of the 
old in the new, the unfolding of a given quality as a whole, 
single system are at the same time a process " of dividing 
the unity into its mutually- exclusive opposites " and the 
intensification of the conflict between them. The more 
capitalism is developed, the more strongly are revealed the 
contradictions between the socializing of work and private 
ownership, between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, 
between the " changeableness " of capitalism and its 
" stability." The highest stage of the development of a 
quality, which it reaches in its evolution, is at the same 
time the highest stage of the intensification of its contradic- 
tions, is its limit, its end. The highest stage of capitalist 
development— imperialism— is, at the same time, its last 
stage, the eve of the leap to socialism. 

By examining quality first of all in its emergence and then 
in the process of its evolutionary development, as a transi- 
tion of quality into quantity, we showed that this quanti- 
tative change is at the same time the preparation for the 
transition to a new quality. In our investigation we returned 


to the transition of quantity into quality. And this circle 
expresses the continuous course of development. Develop- 
ment can never stop still ; in the birth of a quality there is 
already included the seed of its decay, the decay of the 
one is the inevitable beginning of the new and so on, 

We are evolving into communism, but the attainment 
of our aim by no means excludes its further development. 

" Utterly false is the usual bourgeois representation 
that socialism is something dead, frozen, given once and 
for all ; it is a fact that only from socialism will begin 
the advance in every realm of social and personal life — 
an advance that will be a rapid, genuine, real mass 
advance, in which first the majority of the population and 
later the whole population will take part." 1 

As Marx said, the transition to communism will end the 
pre-history of human society and will begin its real history. 
We do not yet know through what qualitatively unique 
stages this future historic process will go, but we are assured 
that communism will never in any way be a system of sleep 
and stagnation. 

The double, mutually contradictory transition of quality 
into quantity expresses the eternal cycle of development in 
which matter, through the ceaseless emergence and 
annihilation of the forms of its movement, keeps on repro- 
ducing itself in ever new movement and in ever new 

" Matter moves in an eternal cycle in which every 
particular form of the existence of matter — be it the sun 
or a nebula, a particular animal or biological process, a 
chemical combination or decomposition — is equally in 
transition, and in which there is nothing permanent 
except eternally moving matter and the laws of its 
movement and change." 2 

1 Lenin, State and Revolution, chap. 5., section iv.. 

2 Engels, Dialectic of Nature. 



It is impossible to understand actuality with any degree 
of fullness, it is impossible to understand an object in its 
self-movement, until you disclose in it the cycle, the 
connection of its beginning and end. 

The law of transition of quantity into quality and its 
converse show us the way to the understanding of this 
connection, to the study of the cycle of emergence and 
annihilation in all the phenomena of nature and society. 



In the struggle of the different tendencies in science 
which we touched on in our previous exposition, the ques- 
tion of the connection of quantity and quality plays an 
important role. The fierce controversies on this question 
have by no means been confined to philosophy. They 
penetrate into the special forms of science and may 
even become the methodological basis of direct political 

Discussions on the relation of quantity to quality both 
in objective actuality and in knowledge are in large mea- 
sure concentrated around the problem of reduction or 
analysis. In what direction must the knowledge of each 
phenomenon of nature and society proceed— along the line 
of the study of it as a complete whole, possessing a specific 
quality that determines all its features and properties and 
is expressed in them — or along the line of the analysis of 
it into its component parts and properties, of the reduc- 
tion of the whole to the relations of its simple parts and 
properties ? 

The second alternative is one of the basic principles 
of mechanism. The mechanists think that a phenomenon 
is explained if we succeed in reducing it, in levelling it 
down to its simple elements and their external mechanical 
relations. In the whole there emerges nothing new in 
principle as compared with what was in its particular parts. 
Each thing only seems to be something indivisible, some- 
thing unique, seems so from a superficial, subjective 


approach to it. The wholeness of a thing exists only as its 
secondary property. The task of science is to leave this 
superficial appearance and to probe deeper, to analyse the 
thing into its components. In this and this alone do 
mechanists see the task of knowledge. 

Society is made up of people. To understand it one must 
learn the nature of man as such, his character and his 
desires. When these are known it will be easy to under- 
stand society as a whole. But a particular man torn out of 
his social connection is an animal organism and that is all. 
Therefore to understand society we must study man as a 
biological being. We must study his brain, his instincts, the 
physiological mechanism of the formation of the condi- 
tioned reflexes, etc. Moreover we must reduce the conduct 
of man to the simpler phenomena which we observe in the 
conduct of animals biologically lower than man. Certain 
physiologists following Pavlov are profoundly persuaded 
that those reflexes which they study in dogs can explain 
all wars and revolutions, all class conflicts and the sub- 
ordination of one set of people to another. 

But if society is reduced to a simple aggregate of animals 
of the species " man," then it becomes possible to explain 
social phenomena on the basis of the Darwinian theory. 
Every man carries on a struggle for existence. In this 
struggle the biologically stronger and better survive — the 
worse and weaker are doomed to extinction. This selection 
of the best also operates in the social process. If the weaker 
workers are doomed to extinction, especially in time of 
unemployment, then all the better for the human race. If 
the rich and noble are " on top," it must be because natural 
selection has raised them there as the strongest and best. 
The reactionary role of such theories is perfectly evident. 
By ascribing social effects to purely biological causes they 
are able to prove that the class order of society is the pro- 
duct of biological forces that inalienably belong to the 
human race. The reduction of sociology to biology is one of 
the philosophical instruments of the bourgeoisie. It is not 
surprising to find that " social Darwinism " is used for the 


justification of fascist dictatorship. And our mechanists, by 
defending the theory of reduction, are, whether they like 
it or not, pouring 'water on the fascist mill-wheel. 

However, the reduction of sociology to biology is by no 
means the final point, it is only an intermediate station on 
the road of the mechanistic explanation of nature. An 
animal or vegetable organism is such a whole as must be 
explained by the physio-chemical processes that make it 
up. An animal is a machine, proclaim the mechanists. 
True the machine is more complex than any motor, but 
yet there is no qualitative difference between a man and a 
Diesel engine. The task of biology lies in the analysis of 
vital processes into their physio-chemical parts, in analysis 
and only in analysis, in levelling down. Biology is preserved 
as a particular science only because there has been as yet 
no successful analysis of all the biological processes that 
-Seem to be independent phenomena. In their turn chemical 
processes are ultimately physical and physical processes are 
at bottom the mechanical relations of " final," unanalysable, 
simple, identical particles of quality-less " matter as such." 
A few decades ago mechanists declared this " final " 
particle to be the atom. To-day, after still further reducing 
the atom they declare it to be the electron. But, as in the 
past, so now, this straining after something " final," 
eternal, immutable, simple, is the unmistakable charac- 
teristic of the metaphysical method. 

Their dream is to reduce all sciences to one, to a final 
science concerned solely with the mechanical movements 
of the simplest parts. If Marx in Capital speaks of economic 
phenomena and of their peculiar laws, it is only in accord- 
ance with the imperfection of the science of his time. In 
the future, no doubt, we shall come to transpose the cate- 
gories of Capital into those of electrons, and to explain 
the October Revolution as a definite form of electronic 
motion. This, then, is the final truth ! 

According to this there exist in nature no qualitative 
differences; all differences between things are ascribable 
to the number and distribution in space of quality-less 


particles, i.e. all differences are only quantitative differ- 
ences. The differences of qualities are only a subjective 
appearance which we must accept until we reach the 
real explanation. Our mechanists have used the phrases 
" the untying of qualitative knots," " the elimination 
of all qualitative aspects." It is easy to recognize in: 
these phrases the philosophy of the most commonplace 
bourgeois evolutionism. Qualitative knots and, con- 
sequently, " leaps " are only " subjective appearance." 
Mechanism of this type is obviously one of the forms of 
gradualism, the first of those theories of development 
examined by Lenin, the one which ascribes all changes to 
simple increase and decrease of magnitude. In essence such 
a theory of " development " is a negation of all actual 
development, a negation of the possibility of emergence of 
the new. 

Our mechanists love to stress the fact that their views 
are strictly material. Yet the metaphysical nature of their 
views, independently of their wishes, takes them far away 
from logical materialism. All aspects of the mechanistic 
theory lead by one way or another to idealism and supersti- 
tion. The impossibility of finding any real way of accounting 
for the world as we know it by attributing all phenomena 
to mechanical motion brings them to the subjective view- 
point, forces them more and more to admit the impossibility 
of getting beyond " secondary," " subjective " properties, 
leads more and more to the subjective-idealistic attitude to 
knowledge. By ascribing every form of defmiteness to 
quantity they are led in the end to a Pythagorean numerical 
mysticism which is only another road from mechanism to 
idealism. In fact what is there to say about the particles of 
"mechanized" matter? Only "how many"? "how they 
are distributed" ? and " how large and whither directed are 
the forces that connect them"? In this way all matter is 
reduced to geometrical and arithmetical relations. " The 
essence of the world is number." The mechanist Zeitlin,, 
tried to " trim " Marx to the shape of a mechanist, and 
demonstrating (as well as he could) that Marx sought in 


Capital to ascribe all and sundry to quantitative differences, 
wrote: " When we asserted that Marx's Capital is mathe- 
matical in its internal content, we meant only that Marx's 
qualitative analysis is strictly materialistic." So according 
to Zeitlin, materialism is identical with mathematism; the 
more completely we reduce theory to mathematics, the 
greater the materialism. 

" As Hegel has shown already, this view, this ' one- 
sided mathematical view-point,' according to which matter 
is determinable only quantitatively and has been 
qualitatively the same from time immemorial, is a return 
to Pythagoras who long ago regarded number, quantita- 
tive defmiteness, as the essence of things." 1 

The most logical mechanists do not attempt to conceal 
this. One of the leaders of the mechanists, E. E. Stepanov, 
wrote : 

" Must we not actually conclude that the electronic 
theory of the structure of matter brings us back to 
Pythagoras, who saw the essence of things in number, in 
quantitative defmiteness ? If, indeed, it brings us back, 
then it is on the basis of all the scientific attainments of 
the great period that follows on after Pythagoras." 

" On the basis of all scientific attainments " modern 
physico-idealists return to Pythagoras ; it is inevitable that 
everyone who denies the objective existence of qualities will 
ultimately find himself doing likewise. And so as we see, 
the different aspects of the mechanistic world-outlook reveal 
in the theory of reduction their unity as aspects of one and 
.the same metaphysical philosophy, one and the same route 
to idealism. 

The time has long gone by since mechanistic materialism, 

by its conflict with the mediaeval metaphysic of properties, 

by its investigations of the simplest mechanical movements, 

by its exposure of the grossest forms of superstitions, played 

1 Engels, second note to Anti-Diihring. 


an historically progressive role. Mechanism in our day is 
essentially bourgeois and has become the weapon of bour- 
geois reaction both in science and in political practice. On 
the mechanistic theory of " levelling down " are based 
reactionary views as to gradual world progress by means of 
partial changes of the whole, are based all sorts of other 
bourgeois ideas that serve as a cover for the counter- 
revolutionary action of the modern " healers of the 
capitalist system " — the social reformists. 

In our conditions this form of metaphysic with its abstract 
mathematical approach, with its " deeply philosophical " 
basis of gradualism and drift, has become the methodo- 
logical basis of kulak ideology and its spokesmen — the 
Right-opportunists. Opportunistic narrow practicality that 
forgets about the complex connections of all the tasks of 
socialist construction (not seeing the wood for the trees) 
has as its own basis the same mechanistic reduction of the 
whole to the parts. 

The lamentably celebrated theory of Bukharin on the 
peaceful transition of all the different phases of our economy 
into socialism substitutes for the contradictory process of a 
class struggle that is passing through a number of qualita- 
tively unique stages, an even and continuous quantitative 
growth. On the basis of a purely quantitative approach, 
Bukharin has set on the same plane our socialist farms and 
the kulak estates. 

Similarly, Frumkin asserted that we needed such and 
such a quantity of wheat, regardless of the sectors in which 
it was produced. Here was the same reduction of qualita- 
tive differences to pure quantity. 

Bukharin, not without serious significance, bade us trans- 
pose the " language of Hegelian dialectic to the language 
of modern mechanics." This Right-opportunist practice was 
the logical realization of his mechanistic philosophic views. 

And so mechanism, by reducing the whole to the parts, 
vulgarly distorts the tasks of knowledge and prac- 
tice, arrives at an absolute monotony of nature and opens 
the door to subjective idealism. 


■ . However, in bourgeois ideology there exists yet one more 
resolution of the problem of the whole and the parts, a 
resolution which at the first glance seems absolutely opposed 
to mechanism. It is the stand-point of objective idealism, 
which rests on the wholeness of phenomena and turns this 
. into an absolute. The. upholders of this view observe the 
.weak spots in the mechanistic theory of reduction. It is 
really out of their criticisms of mechanistic materialism that 
they construct their own philosophy of science. They point 
out that an organic whole is always more than the simple 
sum of its parts. A living organism is something more than 
.an aggregate of physico-chemical processes ; similarly the 
ideyelopment of society is accomplished on quite a different 
■principle from that which operates in the world of animals 
and plants ; a man's thought is something quite other than 
the motion of the particles of his brain. The task of know- 
ledge is not to analyse a whole into its parts, but to note the 
characteristic features of the entire phenomenon as a whole. 
Biology, they say, must study that which belongs only to 
the organism, it must confine itself to that which distinguishes 
a living organism from inorganic processes — the organic 
relations 7 proper to the living body, nourishment, growth, 
reproduction, adaptability to its environment, the process 
of restoring destroyed tissues, etc. This strict regard for the 
whole is in fiat opposition to the crudities of mechanism, yet 
it can fall into an even worse crudity itself. 

This abstract concentration upon the wholeness of living 
processes tends to separate an organism from inorganic 
nature and to create a gulf between the living and the non- 
living, between " spirit " and matter. Indeed, if life is only 
something peculiar to the whole, then how is one to explain 
the emergence of life from physico-chemical processes that 
originate on the earth's surface ? The theory of absolute 
wholeness excludes the development of nature. 

But the transition from the non-living to the living pro- 
ceeds in a certain sense all the time. An organism is fed and 
grows. In this process it is all the time assimilating non-living 
substance, and turning non-living matter into living. It is 



easy to say that an organism possesses an " aptitude " for 
growth, but it is necessary to disclose how this growth pro- 
ceeds. It is easy to say that an organism is capable of restor- 
ing destroyed tissues and fighting against disease, but it is 
necessary to investigate how these specific properties of the 
living organism arose in matter and how they actually 
developed. Moreover, in actuality the organic principle is 
by no means always realized. The wholeness of a living 
organism exists in conflict, replacement and destruction and 
is by no means absolutely harmonious. It becomes clear that 
the theory of absolute wholeness is a different aspect of the' 
theory of" pre-established harmony," and, like it, closes its 
eyes to the sharp breaks, the destruction of the old, the con- 
flicts, that take place in development. Thus to account for 
an evolved whole that is now in a static condition it is 
necessary to invoke some kind of miraculous intervention. 

An organism is a ideologically constructed whole. There 
is none of this teleology in the particular physico-chemical 
processes that go on inside the organism, therefore — the up- 
holder of " wholeness " concludes — the teleology of vital 
processes is a manifestation of a special beginning, of a 
special force, which exists outside the particular parts, 
which subordinates them to itself and joins them into a 
single whole. Since it is purposeful and is separate from 
inorganic nature, it appears essentially as a spiritual force. 
This is the " elan vital " (vis vitalis), whence in biology 
this theory bears the name of vitalism. This theory of abso- 
lute wholeness is obviously a profoundly idealistic doctrine. 

It is easy to recognize in this doctrine the old, long 
familiar features of the mediaeval metaphysic of properties. 
That theory too acknowledged the reality of a whole as a 
special property that existed along with the properties of the 
particular parts. It also explained life by citing a life force. 
In just the same way in the " latest " idealistic doctrine 
separate qualities exist side by side as absolutely 
independent forces. 

In criticizing the mechanists the upholders of absolute 
wholeness themselves arrive at another, a still grosser form 


of metaphysics ; they expound undisguised superstition. The 
vitalists criticize the mechanists, the mechanists criticize 
the vitalists ; each of these doctrines makes capital out of 
criticism of the other. And therefore they both exist in un- 
broken unity, each one possesses in the other " its other." 
In their conflict is disclosed their internal kinship. 

The philosophy of absolute wholeness does not exist in 
biology alone. In the course of recent years it has made great 
strides in all the fields of bourgeois ideology. A nation is a 
whole, say the fascist philosophers, the life of a people is 
determined by its "national idea," its "national spirit," 
" its spirit of wholeness and of desire for power." This 
"idea" is higher than the interests of separate classes; 
workers and peasants must bow before this " idea," in its 
name they must abandon their demands and humbly 
submit themselves to Mussolini and Hitler. The direct 
coercion exerted by bourgeois dictatorship over the workers 
— the majority — is justified by the bourgeois philosophers 
with their idealistic theory of an absolute whole realized in 
the " national spirit." They depict the bourgeois State not 
as a cudgel in the hands of the ruling class but as an expres- 
sion of the idea of a whole. Resurrecting the Hegelian 
idealism, the Hegelian teaching on the unity of absolute 
spirit, modern bourgeois philosophy creates the ideological 
weapon of fascism. We see a tendency to move in this 
direction among certain reformist theoreticians also. 

The Menshevist idealism of the Deborin school took 
essentially the same line when it uncritically took over and 
began to use the whole of Hegel's idealistic dialectic. Especi- 
ally in Deborin's treatment of the problem of quality do we 
find a distinct manifestation of an idealistic deviation. 
Deborin contends against idealism, he keeps aloof from 
vitalist superstition. But in criticizing the mechanistic 
theory of reduction he proceeds from abstract conceptions 
and therefore reaches a conception of quality as something 
isolated in its uniqueness. Whence his kinship with a number 
of semi-vitalist and sometimes even purely vitalist currents 
of thought. 


The tendency of Menshevist idealists to understand a 
leap as an independent act shows that they too separate 
qualities from each other and fail to understand the 
mutual penetration of continuity and discontinuity, the 
internal unity of quantitative and qualitative changes. 

And so objective idealism propounds, instead of the con- 
tinuity of the purely quantitative changes of the mechanists, 
a break between qualities, a conversion of them into isolated, 
absolutely whole systems, separating qualitative changes 
from quantitative. Both forms of metaphysics are two 
mutually amplifying methods of the ideological struggle of 
the bourgeois for supremacy. Both currents, though pro- 
ceeding from opposite directions, deny actual development, 
distort the tasks of knowledge, hinder the disclosure of 
the contradictions of bourgeois actuality ; both encourage 

The idealistic philosophy of a break between qualities is 
very often used by fascists for the purpose of setting one 
nation in opposition to another ; by reformist theoreticians 
to buttress a purely fascist view of the State ; and even by 
the heroes of the " Left " as the basis of the idealistic doc- 
trine of a leap from the " kingdom of necessity to the 
kingdom of freedom." In the methodology of Trotskyism, 
which is distinguished by its extreme eclecticism and am- 
biguity, mechanistic reduction exists alongside an idealistic 
emphasis on the absoluteness of qualitative differences. 

The idealistic philosophy of absolute wholeness serves 
Trotskyism as a basis for its " Left " talk of " permanent 
revolution," to be accomplished at one stroke on a planetary 
scale. It is not mere chance that Trotsky echoes the Hege- 
lian, Lassalle. The theory of the absolute isolation of the 
proletariat, which all other classes, including the peasantry, 
confront as a " united reactionary mass," the theory of 
revolution which arrives suddenly at the end of an epoch 
and signifies the victory of the working class — these theories 
of Lassalle were based on the idealistic doctrine of absolute 
breaks between qualities. It is easy to recognize in the per- 
manent revolution of Trotsky these same Lasallian features. 


At the first stage of N.E.P., when socialist planning had 
not as yet got its hands upon all the levers of the popular 
economy, Trotsky came out with a grand, all-embracing, 
all-accomplishing economic plan. In his abstract idealistic 
approach the whole was seen to be separated from its parts ; 
it was therefore quite unreal. But when faced with practical 
difficulties Trotsky drew up a defeatist mechanistic pro- 
gramme of reducing the whole plan to the level of the 
weakest sections of the national economy. Because of the 
backwardness of metallurgy (upon which the work of the 
machine building factories depended) Trotsky, in his 
speech at the Twelfth Party Congress, proposed the dosing 
of a number of our largest industrial plants, including the 
famous Putilov works. 

A clear example of his philosophy of absolute breaks is 
seen in his attitude to the collectivization of the rural 
economy. Waxing ironical on the question of our collective 
farm construction he wrote that it was as impossible to con- 
struct a collective-farm out of the sum of peasant farms as it 
was to build a steamer out of a collection of little boats. 
Both Trotsky's comparison and his irony miss their mark. 
In spite of his metaphysics our rural economy is developing 
dialectically, quantitative change is leading to change of 
quality, and the new quality is creating a new quantity, a 
new tempo of growth. 

Furthermore, in actuality the new never emerges ready- 
made and finished. Breaks are never absolute. We have 
entered into the period of socialism although a developed 
socialist society has not yet been created and we have not 
yet emerged from the transition period. It is this contradic- 
tion of living development that has never been grasped by 
Trotsky, and is responsible for his errors. 

And so both mechanistic " levelling down" and the 
idealism of absolute wholeness are in their class-roots and 
their metaphysical approach quite close to each other, and 
though they proceed from different directions are all the 
time moving to the same conclusions. It is clear from our 
enquiry that it is impossible to separate the whole and the 


parts. They mutually penetrate each other. But in order to 
understand their real unity we must examine them not 
externally, not metaphysically, but in living contradic- 
tionary development. Independent qualities do not exist; 
all things are connected by a unity of development. The 
complex emerges out of the simple — but unity of development 
does not denote the identity of all things. 

A living organism is something that arose out of inorganic 
matter. In it there is no "vital force." If we subject it to a 
purely external analysis into its elements we shall find 
nothing except physico-chemical processes. But this by no 
means denotes that life amounts to a simple aggregate of 
these physico-chemical elements. The particular physico- 
chemical processes are connected in the organism by a new 
form of movement, and it is in this that the quality of the 
living thing lies. The v new in a living organism, not being 
attributable to physics or chemistry, arises as a result of the 
new synthesis, of the new connection of physical and chemical 
movements. This synthetic process whereby out of the old 
we proceed to the emergence of the new is understood 
neither by the mechanists nor by the vitalists. 

The task of each particular science is to study the unique 
forms of movement of a particular degree of the develop- 
ment of matter. Social science studies the emergence and 
development of social formation, studies the development of 
productive forces and the relations of production, the class 
struggle and the changing of social forms. The production 
of tools and machines comprises the qualitative distinction 
of social man from animals and because of this qualitative 
distinction the development of society is accomplished not 
according to the laws of natural selection but according to 
laws that belong only to society. 

Just as specific is the subject of biology. Biological 
sciences investigate the connection of different processes in 
the life of an organism, the laws of heredity and variation, 
the adaptability of the organism to the environment, 
development on the basis of natural selection, etc. All these 
processes are qualitatively unique, and attempts to reduce 


them to more simple laws can lead only to the distortion of 
the actual problems of knowledge. 

How so ? the mechanists will object ; the complex is 
made up of the simple; life is wholly analysable into 
physico-chemical processes. Our mechanists do not under- 
stand that by subjecting the organic whole to external 
mechanical analysis this whole is destroyed. By analys- 
ing an organism we get instead of the living, a non- 
living thing, i.e. we destroy the very thing we set out to 

Of course a more complex quality includes in itself 
elements of the simpler. Social man cannot exist without 
the physiological process of the exchange of substances, 
just as also there is no organic life without determined 
physico-chemical processes. But here is the point, the 
elements of the old, by being subordinated to the new 
system, by entering into the new synthesis, themselves be- 
come something new. Physico-chemical processes within 
an organism undergo a radical change ; they cease in essence 
to be directly " dependent on " physics and chemistry. 

The unique conditions of every chemical process within 
an organism are such that this process reaches results that 
under inorganic conditions are impossible. 

" Albumen is the most unstable carbon compound that 
we know. It decomposes as soon as it loses the ability to 
fulfil its proper functions which we call life." 1 

Outside an organism albumen decomposes, within an 
organism it possesses a certain stability. However, this 
stability depends upon the constant renewal and the cease- 
less change of various substances. " Life is the form of 
existence of albuminous bodies, whose essential moment is 
the constant exchange of substances with the physical environment; 
when this exchange ceases, the form too ceases and the 
decomposition of albumen ensues." 2 As we see, albumen 
within the conditions of an organism becomes qualitatively 

But, some mechanist may object, exchange of substances 
1 Engels, Dialectic of Nature. 2 Loc. cit. 



is by no means proper only to organisms ; we also meet with 
exchange in chemical reactions. No doubt, but the exchange 
of substances in an organism is qualitatively different from 
the exchange of the substances of inorganic nature and 
leads to directly opposite results. " The difference is this; 
in the case of inorganic bodies exchange of substances 
destroys them, in the case of organic bodies it is the necessary 
condition of their existence." 1 

Burning, i.e. the combination of carbon with oxygen, 
destroys bodies of non-organic structure, but the same 
process, in the form of the breathing going on within an 
organism, is the necessary condition of its preservation and 
development. It is the same process and yet at the same 
time quite another. 

Quality, as the special system of a given whole, as the 
unique form of movement, lays its imprint on those elements 
from which it emerged itself. 

As we see, in the reality of organic wholes, in their quali- 
tative uniqueness, there is nothing mysterious and unknow- 
able as vitalists and others declare. Wholeness is a qualita- 
tively unique form of movement which, since it proceeds 
from previous stages of the development of matter, includes 
in itself elements of the old and refashions them in a new 
system which contains new contradictions. 

The task of knowledge does not lie in reducing a whole 
to the parts, nor in studying a whole as such, but in the 
disclosure of the relations peculiar to each quality in its 
emergence and development. 

Mechanists simply rejected the synthetic task of know- 
ledge and reduced it to external mechanical analysis. The 
vitalists rejected analysis by converting synthesis into a 
previously given teleological force external to the particular 
parts. Neither these nor others understood development as 
the contradictory self-movement of matter. Actual scientific 
analysis has very little in common with mechanistic re- 
duction. Of course in the study of an organism it is very 
important to know that the albumen of which the living 
1 Loc. cit. 


tissue is made is a special type of carbon compound, that in 
the breathing process carbon dioxide is formed, that the 
hand acts on the principle of a lever, etc., etc. But the main 
problem for the physiologist in his analytic work is by no 
means what physico-chemical processes proceed in the 
organism, but what aspects, properties, features of each 
separate physical-chemical process make its specific role in 
the life of the organism possible. As we showed above, 
every physico-chemical process acquires in biological condi- 
tions a special significance and leads to results other than 
those found outside the organism. This specific thing in the 
chemical elements of life must also be sought for by the 
physiologist when he subjects the living being to analysis. 
Otherwise he will be not a physiologist but a chemist, he 
will have changed the subject matter of his investigation, 
and instead of studying the elements of the organism will be 
studying chemical processes as such. The mistake of certain 
physiologists who have constructed physical models of living 
cells is due to just such a change of their subject matter. 
In the movement of an amoeba a certain role is played by 
surface tension, but a drop of oil with its surface tension is 
only an external, remote analogy to the amoeba. In their 
acceptance of physical and chemical processes as removed 
from their organic connection as elements of life, physical 
mechanists have blundered badly. 

Engels, disclosing the connection of different sciences with 
each other, wrote : 

" By calling physics the mechanics of molecules, 
chemistry the physics of atoms, biology the chemistry of 
albumens, I wish to express the transition of each one of 
these sciences into the other and therefore the connection, 
the continuity and also the distinction, the break between 
the two fields. Biology does not in this way amount to 
chemistry yet at the same time is not something abso- 
lutely separated from it. In our analysis of life we find 
definite chemical processes. But these latter are now not 
chemical in the proper sense of the word ; to understand 



them there must be a transition from ordinary chemical 
action to the chemistry of albumens, which we call, life." 1 

Even in greater measure is it necessary to mark the 
qualitative uniqueness of the particular elements of human 
society. Society consists of people. It is true that people 
possess certain physiological needs and properties — they 
need food, they must secure shelter from cold,- they multiply, 
etc. Without procreation there can be no social development. 
But only Parson Malthus and his followers (they include 
Karl Kautsky) have the effrontery to declare that unem- 
ployment under capitalism depends on the immoderate 
multiplication of the workers, has in fact a biological basis, 
whereas in actuality multiplication of social man is not his 
biological property, it is wholly subordinate to the specific 
law-system of the social whole. The growth of population 
is subordinate to social law-governance ; the law of popu- 
lation, as Marx shows, is historical, it changes along with 
each form of society, is specific for each class, for each 
concrete situation. 

And so the analysis of a qualitatively definite whole is not 
by any means its external mechanical dissection, is not by 
any means its reduction to such parts as have another, 
simpler qualitative definiteness. The particular parts always 
express in themselves the nature of the whole, and their 
separation from the whole is necessary only to Malthus, 
Kautsky, and other " priests" " of the capitalist system, 
who use them as arbitrary logical figments and not as 
guides to an actual knowledge of capitalism. Thus in the 
contradictory unity of quality and its final limits, of 
qualitative and quantitative changes, of continuity and 
discontinuity, of the new and the old, is accomplished the 
eternal development of matter. 

1 Engels, second note to Anti-Diihring. 




Pure quantity exists only in abstraction. In objective 
actuality every quantitative definiteness appertains to a 
certain quality. Three, four, five, etc. as generalities do not 
exist, but there are three or four trees, stones, tons of iron, 
metres of cloth, etc. 

Conversely quality also does not exist independently of 
quantity. Every quality belongs to a thing that has this or 
that magnitude, every qualitative definiteness has at every 
given moment a definite intensity and degree of its develop- 
ment, has this or that quantitative characteristic. 'A piece of 
iron that has no definite magnitude, weight and tempera- 
ture does not exist. Nor does a tree exist without a definite 
diameter to its trunk, number of branches and leaves, etc. 
Every light-ray has this or that wave-length, every electric 
current this or that voltage. The determined means of 
production in every country is characterized by this or that 
degree of development. 

The establishment of such quantitative definitions, 
specific for each particular thing at each given moment of 
its development, has great practical and theoretical 
importance. However, the connection of quality and 
quantity in the examples just given has a more or less 
external character, each given magnitude is independent 
of the general characteristic of the quality. The fact that 
this piece of iron weighs three tons, and that four, is quite 
fortuitous for iron as a definite chemical element. The fact 
that in this country there are three trusts, in that ten, says 



in itself very little about the quality of capitalism as a 
special system of production. - 

In this way in every particular case the quantitative 
definiteness of a thing emerges as its external definiteness, 
" indifferent " to its quality. But as soon as we begin to 
scrutinize a thing in the whole course of its development we 
discover the profound internal connection of its quantita- 
tive and qualitative definitenesses. 

Quality is developed on the basis of the internal con- 
tradictions of a thing. Development proceeds as determined 
by the form of movement characteristic of that quality 
and continues until the limiting stage within that type is 
reached. The contradiction of nascent capitalism pushes it 
inevitably to the development of machine technique, to the 
seizing of markets, to the annihilation of small-scale 
property, to domination in all fields of production. Social- 
ism that has come into existence and has conquered but has 
still not yet fully developed proceeds inevitably to the full 
development of the possibilities of planned economy and goes 
on to the creation of productive forces adequate to socialism 
as a type of society. 

In this case it is clear that quantitative development is by 
no means indifferent to the quality of the developing pro- 
cess, its connection with that quality is not external and 
fortuitous. Each particular quality has a corresponding 
quantitative measure so that the quantitative changes 
within a developing whole are determined by that quality. 
There are fixed limits in quantitative changes within which 
alone the quality can remain indifferent to the quantity. 
The point at which magnitude ceases to be indifferent is 
dependent upon the internal connection of quantitative 
and qualitative changes. Therefore change does not depend 
merely on quantitative development but on the special 
relation of quality to quantity in each particular case. 

Conversely, we know that every quality is finite, that 
every qualitative definiteness has an internal final limit 
that belongs to it and that the fullest development of 
quality is at the same time the revelation of its limit. 


Imperialism, the highest stage of capitalist development, is 
at the same time the last stage of its development. 

" But capitalism became capitalist imperialism only at 
a definite, very high stage of its development, when 
certain of its fundamental properties had begun to change 
into their opposites, when the features of a period of 
transition from capitalism to a higher socio-economic 
system had begun to take shape and reveal themselves 
all along the line." 1 

The concentration of powerful productive forces in the 
hands of a few capitalists is the highest stage of private 
property in the means of production. And at the same time 
the concentration reveals the final limit of private property, 
it makes possible and necessary the transition to socialism. 

For a full knowledge of the quality of a thing it is neces- 
sary to determine its final limit, that highest stage of its 
development at which it goes over into another quality — 
into its opposite. To know the quality of a metal we need 
to determine the temperature at which it melts. To know 
the quality of a building material we must find out its 
resistance to strain, its conditions of fracture, its heat con- 
ductivity. Thus for the knowledge of a quality we must 
disclose the highest stage of its development, the point of 
demarcation for its changes, the quantitative final limit of 
its existence as the given quality. 

That is to say, both quantity and quality are disclosed 
more fully in their unity. The disclosure of this unity is 
measurement in the widest sense. 

The transition of quantity into quality and the reverse is 
nothing else than the revelation of the internal contradic- 
tions of measurement. And that nodal point of change, at 
which the transition of quantity into quality takes place, 
expresses very fully the measurement of the given thing. 

Quantitative and qualitative changes, taken as them- 
selves, seem to be something indeterminate, fortuitous, and 

1 Lenin, Imperialism, chap. vii. 



external. In measurement we disclose their necessary con- 
nection, we reveal their importance in the unity of the 
process. Thus measurement is nothing else than the law of 
the connection of quantitative and qualitative changes — a law that 
belongs to everything. 

" It is a great service to know the empirical numbers 
of nature, for example, the mutual distances of planets, 
but an immeasurably greater service is to make such 
empirically determined quantities vanish, by raising them 
to the general form of quantitative definitions, so that they 
become moments of law or measurement " (Lenin). 

It was in this manner that Hegel determined the sig- 
nificance of the transition from external quantitative 
definiteness to measurement; he regarded measurement as 
the law-governed unity of a thing in its development, and 
development as that which gives the necessary basis to 
quantitative definiteness itself. 

Knowledge of measurement plays an important role in 
science and practice. Every kind of physical energy, every 
chemical element has measure, which is reflected in a whole 
order of unalterable magnitudes — constants as they are 
called. Specific gravity, melting point, boiling point, atomic 
weight, valency, etc. — are such specific magnitudes as 
express the measurement of a chemical element. The 
constant of world gravitation, the magnitude of the 
quantum of energy, the mechanical equivalent of different 
aspects of energy, Avogadro's constant — these are examples 
of magnitudes that reflect the measurement of physical 
processes. We measure the quality of a bridge by that load 
which the bridge can carry. Each machine has in given 
conditions the rate of output specific for it. A zoologist, in 
studying this or that animal, tries to establish its limit of 
growth, its age, its temperature, its blood constituents, etc. 
The differences in the qualification of workers of one and 
the same speciality finds its reflection, under equal con- 
ditions, in the different productivity of their labour. 


In many cases serious political conflict centres round this 
question of measurement, as for instance when it is applied 
to the question of socialist advance or retreat, of finding the 
nodal point of a decisive turn. As an example we will 
consider the transition the period of merely restricting 
the kulak to the period of the liquidation of kulaks as a 
class. Stalin in his speech at the Agrarian Conference gave 
convincing arguments for believing this transition to be 
opportune. He contrasted the quantity of wheat produced in 
kulak farms and in the socialist sector for the years 1 927 and 
1929, regarding these quantitative relationships as the index 
of the qualitative difference in the relation of two classes at 
the cited periods. In 1927 the relation of forces was such 
that a decisive advance on kulakism was impossible. The 
Zinoviev-Trotskyist party, which was at this time declaiming 
against the kulak, did not understand our unpreparedness 
for advance. Essentially the measures proposed by the 
opposition would have led to the policy of " scratching 
at kulakism," and not to its liquidation. " To advance on 
kulakism means' so to prepare ourselves that when we do 
smite it it can no more rise to its feet."* This preparation 
was expressed in the Party line on collective farm and 
soviet-farm construction. And at last that moment came 
when the quantity of socialist wheat exceeded the quantity 
of kulak wheat; that was the nodal point of the related 
measurements, that was the moment when it was possible 
to introduce a qualitative change of tactics. In order^ to 
introduce this at the right time it was necessary to determine 
rightly the measurement of the relations of class forces. The 
Central Committee of our Party rightly determined this 
measurement and in 1929 initiated successfully the transi- 
tion to the liquidation of kulaks as a class on the basis of all- 
round collectivization. 

In speaking of measurement in all the examples we have 
given we were at the same time speaking of the transition 
of one quality into another. Nor was it by chance. Measure- 
ment, expressing the contradictions between quantity and quality, is 
1 Stalin, Question of Leninism. 


35 1 

the law of the transition of quantitative changes into qualitative 
changes and of the reverse process, and is therefore the law of 
transition from one process to a qualitatively different process. 

Measurement marks the final limit of a given quality. 
It is only possible to discover that limit by investigating the 
changes of a thing in a thoroughly practical and experi- 
mental way. To determine the measurement of the policy 
of restricting the kulak means to indicate that moment in 
which it passes over into the policy of liquidating the kulak. 
Measurement is found only in the process of change, in the 
process of turning one measurement into another. 

Every measurement " exists only in that connection, 
which leads to the general " and expresses that connection 
by being the law of transition from one process to another. 
Every measurement is of internal necessity linked up with 
a number of others. In this internal connection they form a 
single line of development, a number of nodal points of 
qualitative changes— they form a nodal line of measurements. 

An order of determined and logical changes in the length 
of a violin string gives a single order of musical tones and 
overtones. The solid, liquid and gaseous states of a sub- 
stance are a single chain of quantitative and qualitative 
changes, a single nodal line of measurements of the aggre- 
gate states of the substance. 

Knowledge finds in nature many different and, from 
their appearance, mutually unconnected, things and 
phenomena. The discovery of the nodal line of measure- 
ments leads to the disclosure of their internal connection, of 
the unity in the diversity, to the reflection in a concrete 
whole of the uniqueness of this or that field of nature. 
Engels, touching on the importance of the law of conversion 
of energy, wrote : " In science we have succeeded in ridding 
ourselves from the fortuitousness of the occurrence of this or 
that quantity of physical forces, because their mutual con- 
nection and their transition into each other have been 
revealed." 1 

Measurement is the law of the connection of quality and 
1 Engels, Dialectic of Nature. 


quantity. The nodal line of measurements is a yet wider 
and more general law of a whole number of quantitative 
and qualitative changes. Where in appearance there is a 
simple, joint existence of separate things, a more profound 
knowledge will disclose their law-governed connection as 
links of a nodal line of the measurements of nature, a line 
complete in itself yet with infinite ramifications. 

The nodal line of measurements expresses the internal 
connection of the development of material forms. However, 
it may happen the discovery of the nodal line of measure- 
ments will precede the discovery of the actual course of 
development. Even before the transmutation of chemical 
elements was verified in experiment chemists were occupied 
with the question of their classification. The great scientist, 
Mendeleyev, revealed what is called the periodic law of 
elements. He based this classification upon their atomic 
weights, a specific quantity belonging to each element, 
and by arranging the elements in the order of increasing 
atomic weights showed that the qualities of elements form a 
law-governed system — or, speaking in the language of 
dialectic, a nodal line of measurement. 

Mendeleyev was led to his discovery by realizing the con- 
nection of particular elements with the quantity that is 
specific for them. He himself believed the conversion of ele- 
ments into each other to be impossible and denied them any 
common origin. But when the general law was found it had 
great influence on the study of the properties of particular 
elements. Furthermore, on the basis of the periodic law 
Mendeleyev was able to foretell the properties of elements 
still undiscovered, whose places were then empty in the 
table of the periodic law. The investigations that followed 
brilliantly justified Mendeleyev's predictions. " Men- 
deleyev, by unconsciously applying the Hegelian law of 
transition of quantity into quality, accomplished a scientific 
exploit worthy to be set alongside with the discovery of 
Leverrier, who calculated the orbit of the unknown planet 
Neptune." 1 After Mendeleyev the periodic law underwent 

1 Engels, Dialectic of Nature. 



a number of essential changes and amplifications but its 
basic idea receives ever greater confirmation. The periodic 
law plays an important role in the study of that internal 
form of movement which lies at the basis of qualitatively 
different elements. 

One of the greatest of the services of Marx in creating the 
theory of historic materialism was the discovery of the 
logical connection of a number of social formations. " In 
general features, the Asiatic, the antique, the feudal and 
modern bourgeois means of production can be established 
as progressive epochs of the economic history of society." 1 
Social history as a whole, consisting as it does of the succes- 
sive replacements of one social system by another each of 
which is characterized by the determined level of productive 
forces and of the productivity of social work, forms a single 
nodal line of measurements. 

In politics the nodal line of measurements plays also an 
important role. As Lenin pointed out, the basic trait of 
opportunism is " the changing of principles, lack of 
principle . . . jumping over gaps." In contrast to oppor- 
tunist lack of principle the Leninist policy is the conducting 
of a single line through all stages of revolutionary conflict. 
Lenin, in reckoning up the qualitative differences between 
stages, always indicated the internal connection of the 
particular stages with each other. Stalin on this basis has 
worked out the practical strategy and tactics of Bolshevism. 
Bolshevik strategy is built on the evaluation of the peculiar- 
ities of each stage, determines the measurement of the 
decisive turn from stage to stage, and realizes through a 
number of stages the one final aim of the proletariat. 
Trotsky opposes to the Leninist doctrine on the stages of 
revolution his own conception of the strategy of class 
struggle. In The Lessons of October he defined strategy 
very generally and abstractly, as " the art of conquering, 
i.e. of winning power." For Trotsky strategy is a plan " in 
general " that does not allow variation, nor takes account 
of the uniqueness of the stages in all the relations of class 

1 Marx, Foreword to Critique of Political Economy. 


forces under all sorts of conditions. The dialectical unity of 
the nodal line of measurements in the Leninist doctrine of 
strategy is replaced by Trotsky by the abstract metaphysic 
of the single blow. It is quite clear that this conception of 
strategy is for Trotsky the foundation on which he justifies 
the armed Bolshevik rising of 19 17. But this revolutionary 
strategy, which became necessary at the transition from 
bourgeois-democratic revolution to socialist revolution, was 
for Lenin the realization of a single line that had been 
thought out and expounded long before, the logical growing 
of one stage of revolution into another. Trotsky, however, 
declares this change of strategy to be a change of principles 
and is subsequently compelled to set in opposition to the 
Bolshevist dialectic the metaphysic of his own " permanent 

Profoundly dialectical also is the Leninist plan of New 
Economic Policy ."In his speech at the Eleventh Congress of 
the Party Lenin showed in the stages they had passed 
through and those that still awaited them that single line 
of development which included and justified N.E.P. The 
transition to a developed socialist offensive which the Party 
subsequently carried forward under Stalin's leadership was 
nothing else than the realization of one of the nodes of the 
Leninist line. 

And so, the nodal line of measurements opens the road 
to the knowledge of the whole connection of development in 
all fields of nature and society. But no nodal line exists in- 
dependent of the others. In essence everything in the world 
is the nodal line of its own internal differences and at the 
same time one of the measurements in some wider nodal 
line. The stages of capitalism form the nodal line of capitalist 
development, but capitalism in its turn is one of the 
measures in the general chain of the history of society, just 
as society is only one link in the eternal development of the 
universe of matter. 

" All nature, to the knowledge of which we can attain, 
forms some system, some accumulated connection of 


bodies, and under the word ' body ' we understand all 
material realities, beginning with the stars and ending 
with the atom and even with a particle of ether, in so far 
as we admit the reality of the latter." 1 

Every partial measurement can be understood only as an 
expression of the general line of development. If the 
metaphysical fallacy lay in taking particular things in 
isolation, the dialectical conception of nature requires the 
finding of the place of a given process in the general con- 
nection of development. Through this connection of 
emergence and annihilation we can ever more completely 
and more deeply disclose all the uniqueness of a given 

1 Engels, Dialectic of Nature. 






Ihe dialectical process of the development of 
actuality and our knowledge is not exhausted by the law of 
the transition of quantity into quality and its converse nor 
by the law of the unity of opposites. We find in Marx and 
Engels the basis of a third fundamental law of dialectic — the 
negation of the negation. 

What is the essence of this law ? What connection has it 
with the kernel of dialectic— the law of the unity of oppo- 
sites ? In the exposition that follows we will show that the 
law of the negation of the negation emerges as one of the 
concrete forms of manifestation of the law of the unity of 
opposites, disclosing the connection of the qualitatively 
different stages in the dialectical development of processes, 
their relationship and the form of the change in each 
particular case. 

As the starting-point of our exposition we will take the 
classic example of the law of the negation of the negation 
given by Marx, and we will establish on general lines those 
basic problems which make up the essence of this law. 

In the first volume of Capital, in the section on 
" Historical Tendency of Capitalist Accumulation," Marx 
shows the course of development of private ownership in 
the means of work from its initial moments right down to its 
historically inevitable annihilation, to its transition into its 
opposite — into social ownership. 

" Private property, as contrasted with social or collec- 
tive property, exists only where the means of labour and 



the external conditions of labour belong to private 
individuals. But the character of private property differs 
according as the private individuals are workers or non- 
workers. The innumerable shades which, at the first 
glance, seem to be exhibited by private property are 
merely reflections of the intermediate conditions that lie 
between these two extremes. 

" The worker's private ownership of the means of 
production is the basis of petty industry; and petty 
industry is an indispensable condition for the develop- 
ment of social production and of the free individuality 
of the worker. 

" This method of production presupposes a parcelling- 
out of the soil, a scattered ownership of the instruments of 
production. Just as it excludes concentration of these 
means into a few hands, so does it exclude co-operation, 
the division of labour within the process of production, 
the social mastery and regulation of the forces of nature, 
the free development of the social energies of production. 
It is only compatible with narrow limits for production 
and society. At a certain level of development, this 
method of production brings into the world material 
means which will effect its own destruction. Thence- 
forward there stir within the womb of society forces and 
passions which feel this method of production to be a 
fetter. It must be destroyed, it is destroyed. Its destruc- 
tion, the transformation of the individual and scattered 
means of production, the transformation of the pygmy 
property of the many into the titan property of the few, 
the expropriation of the great masses of the people from 
the land, from the means of subsistence, and from the 
instruments of labour — this terrible and grievous expro- 
priation of the populace — comprises the prelude to the 
history of capital. . . . Self-earned private property, the 
private property that may be looked upon as grounded 
on a coalescence of the isolated, individual, and indepen- 
dent worker, with his working conditions, is supplanted 
by capitalist private property, which is maintained by the 



exploitation of others' labour, but of labour which, in a 
formal sense, is free." 1 

Marx has shown how capitalist private ownership, which 
negates small-scale private ownership, emerges ; now he dis- 
closes the tendencies of its development : 

" As soon as the capitalistic mode of production can 
stand upon its own feet — then the further socialization of 
labour and the further transformation of the land and 
of the other means of production into socially utilized 
(that is to say, communal) means of production, which 
implies the further expropriation of private owners, takes 
on a new form. What has now to be expropriated is no 
longer the labourer working on his own account, but the 
capitalist who exploits many labourers. 

" This expropriation is brought about by the operation 
of the immanent laws of capitalist production, by the 
centralization of capital. One capitalist lays a number 
of his fellow capitalists low. Hand-in-hand with such 
centralization, concomitantly with the expropriation of 
many capitalists by a few, the co-operative form of 
the labour process develops to an ever increasing degree ; 
therewith we find a growing tendency towards the pur- 
posive application of science to the improvement of 
technique ; the land is more methodically cultivated ; the 
instruments of labour tend to assume forms which are 
only utilizable by combined effort-; the means of pro- 
duction are economized through being turned to account 
only by joint, by social labour. All the peoples and 
therefore the capitalist regime tend more and more to 
assume an international character. While there is thus a 
progressive diminution in the number of the capitalist 
magnates (who usurp and monopolise all the advantages 
of this transformative process), there occurs a correspond- 
ing increase in the mass of poverty, oppression, enslave- 
ment, degeneration, and exploitation; but at the same 
1 Marx, Capital, vol. i, pp. 844-5. 


time there is a steady intensification of the wrath of the 
working class — a class which grows ever more numerous, 
and is disciplined, unified, and organized by the very 
mechanism of the capitalist method of production. 
Capitalist monopoly becomes a fetter upon the method of 
production which has flourished with it and under it. 
The centralization of the means of production and the 
socialization of labour reach a point where they prove 
incompatible with their capitalist husk. This bursts 
asunder. The expropriators are expropriated." 1 

Marx, having shown the whole historical course of private 
ownership now draws the following conclusions, among 
which we find the formulation of the law of the negation of 
the negation: 

" The capitalist method of appropriation proceeding 
out of the capitalist method of production, and conse- 
quently capitalist private property, is the first negation of 
individual private property based upon individual 
labour. But, with the inexorability of a law of nature, 
capitalist production begets its own negation. It is a 
negation of a negation. This second negation does not 
re-establish private property,' but it does re-establish 
individual property upon the basis of the acquisitions of 
the capitalist era; i.e. on co-operation and the common 
ownership of the land and of the means of production 
(which the labour itself produces)." 2 

What is the significance of Marx's exposition ? Marx 
unfolds a dialectic of contradictory development of the 
forms of private ownership in which each successive stage, 
growing out of its predecessor and appearing as its negation, 
negates itself in turn by the force of the development of its 
contradictions. Both the conversion of small-scale private 
ownership into large-scale capitalist ownership and also the 
conversion of the latter into social ownership proceed on 

1 Marx, Capital, vol. i, pp. 845-6. 

2 Ibid., p. 846. 


the basis of the development of the essential contradiction in 
the mode of production itself. Each phase in the develop- 
ment of the forms of private ownership resolves the deter- 
mined form of the contradiction that belongs to the previous 
stage of development. Thus the individual forms of private 
ownership that preceded the capitalist grew out of the 
decomposition of feudal ownership. In it was given the 
solution of the contradiction between the development of 
productive forces and the forms of feudal ownership that 
had been keeping back the development of crafts and trade. 
" Private ownership by the worker of the means of produc- 
tion " (Marx) was the basis of small-scale production, which 
at that period was the necessary phase in the development 
of social productive forces to a new stage. But in the course 
of the development of this form of small-scale private 
ownership by the " many," a contradiction between the 
possession of the means of production of the small-scale pro- 
ducer and the further development of the forces in produc- 
tion emerged and proceeded to develop. Capitalism resolved 
this form of contradiction by the alienation of the means of 
production from the small-scale producer and their concen- 
tration into the hands of a few magnates of capital. But 
capitalism called into life another form of the same contra- 
diction between the productive forces and private owner- 
ship — the antagonistic contradiction between the social 
organization of work and the private forms of appropriation. 
Together with this it creates by its considerable expansion 
of productive forces the material premises for the resolution 
of this contradiction. Socialism, by developing productive 
forces to an unheard of degree and by finally abolishing 
private ownership of the means of production, completely 
fills in the gap between labour and the ownership of the 
means of production. The new " individual ownership " of 
the member of socialist society — ownership of consump- . 
tion goods — only resembles in its external aspects that in- 
dividual ownership from which capitalism grew, and is a 
wholly subordinate moment of the new socialist ownership 
of the means of production. 

3 6 4 


" Social property is spread over land and the other means 
of production, but individual property embraces the 
products, that is to say, consumption goods." 1 

And so the essence of the law of negation of the negation, 
as exemplified by Marx in application to the emergence and 
development of capitalism, amounts to the following basic 
propositions : 

(i) Between the different phases of the contradictory 
development of private ownership, there exists a profound 
internal connection. 

(2) Every phase, by overcoming the specific form of the 
contradiction of its predecessor, by negating it, brings 
forth the form of contradiction that belongs to it and by 
this means prepares its own negation. 

(3) These phases, by negating each other, resolve the 
general contradiction that belongs to them and therefore 
the latter negation of the negation denotes a transition to 
a new law-system, to a new essential contradiction. 

(4) The double contradiction unites in itself, in certain 
features, the preceding phases and from the external 
aspect represents a return to some features of the original 
form of the basic contradiction. The " synthesis " negates 
and overcomes both the "thesis" and also the "anti- 
thesis," but the external form of the " synthesis " repro- 
duces certain features of the external form of the thesis. 

Proceeding from these basic propositions we will try to 
estimate the concrete content of the law of the negation of 
the negation. The central movement in all the propositions 
we have indicated is development through contradiction, 
through the negation brought forth by the latter, and 
the negation of that negation. We will first attempt to 
make clear what we mean by dialectical negation. We al- 
ready know from the foregoing exposition that the develop- 
ment of any process originates in its internal contradictions. 
Emerging as aspects of a contradiction, opposites mutually 

1 Engels, Anti-Diihring. 


condition and mutually amplify each other. But the mutual 
conditioning of opposites rests basically on the fact that 
each of them is a negation of the other and an affirmation 
of itself. 

Each aspect emerges therefore both as assuming and 
negating the other. Besides this they form a unity of oppo- 
sites in which their mutual conflict leads to the negation of 
the given unity. Therefore, the moving contradiction of a 
process contains in itself " negation " as its moment. 

" Dialectical materialism " — wrote Lenin — " requires the 
indication of difference, of connection, of transition. With- 
out this a simple affirmation is not complete, is lifeless, is 
dead." This connection, this difference, is also given by the 
development of the contradiction in which also negation 
emerges as the initial impulse. The analysis of the develop- 
ment of any process demands above all the disclosure of its 
essential contradiction, the discerning of its " negativeness," 
which indeed is the actual source of its self-movement. 

The capitalist mode of production grew out of the ruin of 
the mass of small-scale owners, peasants and craftsmen. 
This historic process of the expropriation of the small-scale 
producer, who had been at the same time owner of the 
means of production, led to the formation of a small class 
of large-scale owners, on the one hand, and of a large class 
of proletarians deprived of all property, on the other. Both 
opposites — capital and hired labour — mutually condition 
each other, and the abolition of one of these is at the same 
time the abolition of the other. Capital is above all a social 
relationship, the essential moment of which is the relation of 
capital to hired labour. Hired labour is a social relation and as 
such is impossible without capital, which is its essential 
moment. Besides this, both aspects make up a unity — the 
capitalist mode of production — a unity in which the 
class struggle between the proletariat and bourgeoisie 

Materialistic dialectic explains the emergence of negation 
as a result of the development of the internal contradictions 
of a process. And so negation emerges as a moment in the 


conflict of opposites and, together with this, serves as a true 
connection between the transitions from one set of stages to 
the others. Characteristic of merely " formal " logic is 
another conception of negation ; negation is said to come 
from outside, to be an external and antagonistic force in 
relation to the given process. Metaphysical logic does not 
see development of contradictions as inside a process, as a 
self-negation of the process. For metaphysics negativeness 
does not emerge as an initial impulse inside the developing 
contradiction, but only as an external force. Such an 
external conception of negation is also fundamental to the 
mechanistic views. Thus Kautsky, in The Materialistic 
Understanding of History, comes to grief on the question 
of dialectical negation, which depends upon the self- 
movement of matter. There is, he says, no self-movement of 
matter. Self-movement is a superstition borrowed from 
Hegel, who spoke of self-movement of the spirit. Self- 
movement explains nothing. The actual source of move- 
ment, according to Kautsky, is the mutual action of two 
external forces. In such mutual action one of these forces 
negates the other. The environment negates the organism 
—that is, antithesis (first negation) . The organism overcomes 
the negation of the environment— that is synthesis (nega- 
tion of negation). Here both negation and negation of 
negation are purely external to each other. Kautsky thus 
completely fails to understand negation dialectically, fails 
to see that every unit contains a contradiction, and that 
each stage in the development of a process — both negation 
and negation of negation — emerges as a determined phase 
in the development of the unity of opposites. He does not 
understand that this very unity of opposites is also the 
impulse which initiates and carries through the develop- 
ment of the process. 

" Movement," he writes, " flows out of the opposition or 
collision of opposing elements." 

And so, for Kautsky, as also for every mechanist, the 
following moments in the understanding of negation are 
characteristic : 


(1) Negation as an external moment in relation to the 
development of a process, which is understood to be a 
ceaselessly developing process, possessing in itself neither 
qualitative transitions nor stages that negate each other. 

(2) Negation as absolute negation, as annihilation. The 
understanding of negation as absolute negation leads to 
the failure to understand that negation emerges as a 
moment of connection in the contradictory development 
of a process, that negation also emerges simultaneously as 
a positive moment in the development of a process and 
as an affirmation of new tendencies in contradictory 

" Dialectical ' moment' " — wrote Lenin — " requires 
an indication of ' unity ' ; i.e. of the connection of the 
negative with the positive, requires the finding of this 
positive in the negative. From affirmation to negation — 
from negation to a ' unity ' with the affirmation ; without 
this, dialectic becomes a barren negation, a word-play or 
a scepsis." 1 

Mechanistic methodology, denying the internal self- 
movement of a process, does not see this " unity " of negation 
with affirmation, but on the contrary, sunders them, 
opposes them to each other. The profound distinction 
between the dialectical conception of negation and the 
mechanistic was expressed by Lenin as follows: 

" Neither barren negation, nor purposeless negation, 
nor sceptical negation, nor vacillation, nor doubt are 
characteristic and essential in dialectic, which undoubt- 
edly does contain in itself the element of negation and 
moreover contains it as the most important element — No, 
this element of negation is a moment of connection, is a 
moment of development with a retention of the positive ; 
i.e. without any vacillations, without any eclecticism." 2 

1 Lenin, vol. ix, p. 287. Russian edition. 

2 Ibid., p. 285. Russian edition. 


It follows that dialectical negation must be a determined 
negation, in order to express the connection of the phe- 
nomena in the development of a particular process. 

" In dialectic to negate does not mean simply to say 
' no,' or to declare a thing to be non-existent or to destroy 
it at will. . . . The mode of negation is determined here, 
in the first place, by the general, in the second place, by 
the special nature of the given process. Therefore, I must 
produce the first negation in such a way that there should 
be or should become possible a second negation. But how 
do I attain this ? According to the special nature of each 
particular case. If I ground up a grain of barley, or 
crushed an insect, then, though I should have accom- 
plished the first act of negation, I should have made the 
second impossible. For every category of objects there is 
thus a special mode of negation peculiar to it, and only 
from this is development to be obtained." 1 

The appearance of a plant from a seed that has been 
thrown into the ground is not the barren negation of the 
seed, but its further development. The emergence of a 
capitalist economy out of the small-scale-trading economy 
is the further development of the latter. But the simple 
destruction of a seed, the killing of an insect by a bird^ do 
not express in themselves the internal law-governed con- 
nection of the stages of a process. On the contrary, the 
destruction of a seed, as such, by the appearance from it of 
a plant is at the same time also its preservation in the 
plant, which at a determined stage of development will 
produce other seeds. Negation is also affirmation, " de- 
struction " is also preservation. Dialectical negation appear- 
ing as a stage in the development of a process, emerges on 
the one hand as the overcoming of the old, and on the other 
as the preservation of particular aspects of it as a subordi- 
nated moment. Such dialectical denial was called by Hegel 
' c sublation. "But according to Hegel, the idealist, it is not real 

1 Engels, Anti-Diihring. 


3 6 9 

things but ideas that " sublate " each other. Marx criticizing 
the idealistic character of this Hegelian conception, in 
which all actuality was shown as sublated in absolute know- 
ledge, indicated its unreal character. " This sublation is 
assumed actually to overcome its subject, but in reality, 
leaves it untouched," wrote Marx, stressing the necessity 
of studying actual development. Marx also indicated the 
positive moments in Hegel's exposition of this problem of 
sublation. He showed that this process is really a material 
movement that recovers whatever disintegration has taken 
place, so that it emerges not only as an overcoming, but also 
as a preservation, a subordination to itself of the particular 
sides of the preceding stage in the development of the 
process. In a number of his works, Marx showed that in the 
ownership of the capitalist mode of production, small-scale 
private ownership was overcome as an independent law- 
system, but was preserved as a collateral sublated form of 
the capitalist law-system. 

The problem of sublation plays an important role in the 
analysis of the tendencies of social development. One of the 
great contributions of Lenin was that he clearly and strongly 
urged the importance of using the old under the conditions 
of°the new. In opposition to all " leftist " deviations, he 
stressed the necessity of such action as would avoid flat 
negation of the old, and would ensure at the same time that 
the latter should not be merely preserved in the new, 
merely joined on to it, but having been annihilated as a 
system with its own set of laws, should emerge merely as a 
collateral form of the new law system. It is along such lines 
that the dialectical conception of negation appears in the 
Leninist tactic of N.E.P. N.E.P. emerged as a form of 
contradictory development of socialism, in which occurred 
a special kind of negation of capitalism. This negation was 
allied with a partial sufferance of capitalism. Socialism and 
capitalism were in rivalry, but the conditions of the contest 
guaranteed the victory of the former. The development of 
N.E.P. denoted the resolution of this unstable situation, the 
victory of socialism and the abolition of capitalism within 



the frame of N.E.P. N.E.P., being a determined form of 
socialist development and at the same time the destroyer 
of capitalism, was preparing its own future negation by 
resolving its present contradictions, and thus paved the 
way for the final victory over the elements of capitalism. 

The Trotskyists and the new opposition did not under- 
stand the dialectic of N.E.P. They identified it with 
capitalism. " N.E.P. is a capitalism that holds the pro- 
letarian state on a chain," Krupskaya 1 used to say. The 
Trotskyists declared the forms and methods of N.E.P. to be 
capitalist forms and methods, not seeing that the nature of 
trade, of money, of keeping accounts within the conditions 
of socialist construction was essentially altered, that the 
utilization of the old forms and methods does not denote 
their simple transfer into the frame of the soviet economy, 
but their critical adoption and ultimate overcoming. The 
Trotskyists did not see that in the setting up of the new law- 
governance the old forms and methods already occupy a 
subordinate position and are not a simple repetition of 
capitalist methods. Naturally, the Trotskyists, by not seeing 
the paths to the dialectical negation of capitalism within 
N.E.P., proposed to the Party a policy that aimed at the 
disruption of N.E.P. and consequently of socialist construc- 
tion itself. 

The " Right " also did not understand the dialectical 
negation in N.E.P., because their policy was to use capi- 
talism with its forms and methods, to allow development of 
commerce, in such a way as could lead to nothing else than 
a strengthening of capitalist elements ; i.e. they too threa- 
tened the disruption of socialist construction. The "Rights " 
meant by the " negation " of the kulaks a policy which 
merely encouraged their growth within socialism. The 
Trotskyists meant by their kind of " negation " a policy 
which would have caused the kulak groups to reappear. 
We have just quoted the analysis by Marx of the historic 
tendencies of the development of capitalism, where this 
very aspect of the law of negation of negation is stressed. 
1 Krupskaya, Lenin's wife. Author of Memories of Lenin. 


Engels, in Anti-Duhring, provides an illustration from a 
grain of barley. The grain is sown and under suitable condi- 
tions sprouts. " The seed, as such, vanishes, is negated and 
in its place there appears a plant — the negation of the seed. 
But what is the normal cycle of the life of this plant ? It 
grows, flowers, is fertilized and finally produces barley 
seeds again ; when these are ripe, the stalk withers, for now 
its turn has come to be negated. The result of this negation 
is that we have our barley seed again, not one, however, 
but more than a hundred." 

Mikhailovsky interprets Engels's illustration in his own 
way. He says that in the development of a plant it is pos- 
sible to count up more negations. For example, the stalk 
negates the seed, the flower negates the stalk, the fruit 
negates the flower. So where is the triad ? Here there are 
three negations, not two. Further, Mikhailovsky interprets 
Engels as if the only difference that he sees between the 
original seed and the fruit is in the number of the seeds. 
Mikhailovsky's misinterpretation is twofold; in the first 
place, he has confused any succession of phenomena with 
development by negation; and secondly, he has substituted 
for the problem of qualitative development in the changing 
of stages a merely quantitative change. The first is the more 
serious error. Mikhailovsky does not understand that the 
role of a negation or of a negation of a negation is not filled 
by any phenomenon that arises during the development of 
a process, but only by that stage which emerges as the 
complete " breaking down " of the previous stage. 

" A flower," writes Plekhanov, "is an organ of a 
plant, and as such just as little negates the plant as the 
head of Mr. Mikhailovsky negates Mr. Mikhailovsky. 
But the ' fruit,' i.e. more exactly, the fertilized ovum, 
is actually a negation of the given organism because of 
its capacity to be the originating point in the develop- 
ment of a new life. Engels indeed considers the cycle of 
life of a plant from its beginning as a fertilized seed to its 
production of a fertilized seed." 



Engels himself was prepared for such objections as those 
of Mikhailovsky. In Anti-Duhring he wrote : 

"We have cited barley seed, but the same process 
takes place among the majority of insects, for example, 
among butterflies. They appear out of the egg by way of 
negating it, they pass through different phases of change 
till maturity, they copulate and then negate themselves 
(i.e. they die) as soon as the process of prolonging the 
species has been accomplished and the females have laid 
their many eggs. . . . The fact that among the plants and 
animals the process is not so simply resolved, that they not once 
but many times produce seeds, eggs or young ones, before they die- 
is notour concern, our purpose here was to show that negation of 
negation actually proceeds in both realms of the organic world." 

And so the matter is not in the quantity of negations but 
in the fact that the whole cycle of development includes in 
itself its own negation and negation of negation. Nay, more, 
Engels by looking at the whole process of development, for 
example, seed— plant— seed, shows further that here also 
the matter does not amount to a quantitative aspect of 

" Cereals," he writes, " change very slowly so that 
modern barley is almost exactly the same as the barley 
of the last century. But let us take some plastic decorative 
plant, for example, the dahlia or the orchid ; if we act 
artificially on the seed and on the plant that grows from 
it, then as the result of this negation of negation we shall 
obtain not only a greater quantity of seeds but also a 
qualitatively improved seed which is able to produce more 
beautiful flowers, and every repetition of that process, 
every new negation of negation will further enhance the 
quality." 1 

And so in the law of negation of negation Marx and 
Engels stress the internal connection and relationship of the 

1 Engels, Ardi-Diihring. 


successive stages of objective development, from the 
emergence of the contradiction in any process to its relative 
resolution in external forms of development. And in the 
illustration from seeds the cycle of life of a plant was taken 
by Engels from its embryonic state of seed, which are 
the result of another vegetative cycle, to the formation of 
new fruits, which at the same time appear as the initial 
stage of a new plant. Negation of negation thus emerges as: 

(1) The result of the development of contradictions 
of a process. 

(2) A moment in a contradictory unity of opposites. 

(3) The special stage in the development of the process 
that breaks down in itself the foregoing phase, a stage 
that denotes the resolution of the basic contradictions, 
the completion of the cycle of development and transition to a 
new unity of opposites. 

The thesis, antithesis and synthesis in the cycle of develop- 
ment of a seed (seed — plant — seed) express the different 
stages of development. Besides this, in the process of develop- 
ment antithesis is given in thesis, because the development 
of a seed takes place just in so far as it is negated as a seed 
and developed as a plant. This is also true as regards 
synthesis — it also is included as a moment in the develop- 
ment of a plant, since it takes place only in so far as the 
plant completes its cycle in fruit-bearing. Furthermore, 
synthesis as a moment includes itself in the new thesis 
because, as the completion of one cycle, it becomes the 
point of departure (thesis) of another cycle, or new process 
of development. 

Materialist dialectic, therefore, regards thesis, antithesis 
and synthesis as forms and stages of the development 
and resolution of the contradictions in the processes of 
actuality : 

(1) As the one essential contradiction which appears 
at the same time as the point of departure of a new 
contradiction, that in turn negates it, 



(2) As the development of this new contradiction. 

(3) As the breaking of it down and the consequent 
relative resolution both of it and of the originating 
contradiction in the new process which has arisen as 
the outcome of all the preceding development. 

Materialist dialectic besides this stresses the relativity 
of the stages in the development of processes ; every stage 
be it thesis, antithesis or synthesis, by being a special form 
of the impulsive contradiction takes on the forms of thesis 
and antithesis and completes its development in synthesis. 
Therefore the whole point of the problem of negation of negation 
lies just in this very problem of the emergence of the new law- 
system through development of the contradictions of the foregoing 
processes of actuality. 

Now we can show that the difference of the two opposite 
conceptions of the law of negation of negation — the dialec- 
tical and the metaphysical— consists in their different 
treatment of the problem of the emergence of the new. 

Hegel, by the way in which he stated the question of 
the sublation of thesis and antithesis in synthesis disclosed 
the dialectical path of development that leads to the 
appearance of new law-systems. The problem of historical 
synthesis is the same as the problem of the emergence of 
the new. We will try to explain it and it will be seen that 
the essence of the law of negation of negation is very deeply 
involved in it. 

The point is, can metaphysical negation explain the 
emergence of the new? We have already seen in the 
chapters devoted to criticism of the mechanists for their 
failure to understand the law of unity of opposites and 
the law of transition of quantity into quality and its 
converse, that mechanists cannot resolve the problem of 
development. By attributing all qualitative uniqueness 
to quantitative relations, they attribute all development 
to mechanical movement, i.e. to motion. The new is re- 
garded by them as a new combination of elements that 
already existed earlier. The new can always be identified 



with the old by analysing it into its constituent elements. 
The new, the synthesis, therefore, is not distinguished by 
its quality, its law-governance, from the old. By treating 
continuity as something absolute, by not seeing the leap- 
like transition in the forming of new qualities, such a 
methodology naturally cannot explain the emergence of 
the new, the problem of development. 

By being unable either to state or to resolve the problem 
of historical synthesis, mechanistic methodology finds it 
impossible to disclose the essence of the law of negation 
of negation ; this law is reduced to a " triad." This is 
characteristic of all those who do not find themselves in 
sympathy with dialectic. 

It is quite natural that Kautsky, who mechanistically 
opposes " thesis " to " antithesis " and the two of them to 
" synthesis," cannot arrive at a correct statement of the 
problem of the new. By Kautsky the new is declared to 
be the totally unexpected, to be " quite new." A cleavage 
between " thesis " and " antithesis " leads to a break of 
the connections in the development of actuality. 

In the development of a plant the appearance of its 
fruits, its seeds, emerges as a negation of it, i.e. as a negation 
of the negation of the original seed. But seeds are brought 
forth by the development of the plant ; they make up a 
moment of the plant, but such a moment as denotes 
the end of the development of the plant. The plant withers, 
the seed remains. The cycle of development is finished. 

Kautsky is perplexed : what is this negation of negation 
when we have simultaneously both the plant (the negation 
of the seed) and the new seeds (the negation of the nega- 
tion) ? As a mechanist he would like to separate these two 
stages by an absolute interval in time, not understanding 
that in actual development the destruction of the old is 
also the emergence of the new. 

Bukharin, with the schematism characteristic of his 
approach, forces all development into narrow categories. 
In his Theory of Historic Materialism he seeks to show how 
development originates. By attributing conflict of opposites 


to a conflict of opposite forces, Bukharin develops a theory 
of equilibrium instead of a theory of the unity of opposites 
on the basis of their conflict. He even goes on to declare 
that Hegel himself reduced all dialectic to a theory of 
equilibrium. Bukharin writes on this issue : 

" Hegel thus regarded the character of movement and 
expressed it in the following form : the primary state of 
equilibrium he called thesis, the destruction of equili- 
brium — antithesis — the re-establishment of equilibrium 
on a new basis — synthesis (i.e. the unifying position in 
which contradictions are reconciled). This character of 
the movement of every existing thing comprised in the 
trinomial formula ('triad') he also named dialectic. " 1 

Sarabyanov, too, takes the same mechanistic position; 
he demonstrates the existence of two triads in Hegel's 
philosophy. A triad is expressed in the following way : 

(1) proposition, 

(2) negation of proposition, 

(3) negation of the negation of the proposition. 

With this triad, Sarabyanov is fully in accord, after 
giving it a mechanistic trim.. " You know quite well," he 
writes, " that from the seed to the ear there is an infinite 
number of stages. Now by these three stages, which we 
call the triad, we mean the past, the present and the future." 
But there is also a second triad — thesis, antithesis and syn- 
thesis. The first two stages are evident to Sarabyanov. But 
with regard to synthesis, he puts the question: " Is there a 
third stage — a ' synthesis,' that is to say, a combination of the 
first and second, a bond of thesis and antithesis ? " Later ? 
Sarabyanov explains that " synthesis is therefore formed 
as follows : one set of properties is connected with the 
thesis, the other set with the antithesis." By mechanistically 

1 Bukharin, Theory of Historic Materialism, p. 77. 



interpreting the final synthesis as the combination of old 
(partly changed) properties, Sarabyanov shows that the 
second triad does not always explain the processes of 
development, although for the most part it can help towards 
their understanding. 

And so all development amounts to a triad; a triad 
amounts to a sequence of equilibrium, the destruction of 
that equilibrium and its re-establishment ; synthesis accord- 
ing to Bukharin is a reconciliation of opposites, according 
to Sarabyanov a combination of properties. It is clear 
that the problem of the new is resolved neither by Bukharin 
nor by Sarabyanov. We know already, to what political 
conclusion this theory of equilibrium and of reconciliation 
of opposites led. At the first successes of socialist construc- 
tion, which evoked the furious opposition of the class enemy, 
the Right began to raise a clamour about the destruction 
of equilibrium and the need to re-establish it. " Synthesis " 
had to proceed on a " new basis." This " new basis " was 
in the opinion of the Right a return to the N.E.P. of 1923. 
In reality such a " synthesis " was reactionary; it was a 
useful argument for those who wished to stay within the 
frame-work of the old, who wanted merely to patch, not 
to renovate. 

Both the Rights and the Lefts failed to understand 
the dialectic of contradictory development in the tran- 
sition period and of the growth of socialism in it. In the 
contradiction between socialism and the small-scale- 
trading economy from which capitalism is born anew, 
there is also included the basic contradiction of the transi- 
tion period, namely the form of contradiction between 
socialism and capitalism specific for that period. War 
communism, N.E.P., the period of socialism — such are 
the basic stages which are passed through by the develop- 
ment of socialist construction, by the resolution of the 
contradictions of the transition period. War communism 
was that form of frontal attack against capitalism which was 
evoked by the conditions of the civil war and by the 
intervention of international capitalism against the country 



of proletarian dictatorship. War communism although 
it had resolved the contradiction between socialism and 
capitalism in its initial form and had laid the basis of 
socialist economy— the expropriation of the expropriators 
—yet could not resolve the basic contradiction of the transi- 
tional economy of the U.S.S.R., could not guarantee the 
construction of the second storey of socialist economy on 
that basis. N.E.P-, which was the negation of war com- 
munism and the general economic policy of the transi- 
tion period, emerged in addition (basing itself on the 
positive achievements of war communism) as that form 
of socialist construction which guaranteed the preparation 
of the resolution of the contradictions between the pro- 
letariat and the peasantry and consequently the resolution 
of the problem of which section was to prevail. In N.E.P. 
the contradictions of the transitional period are fully 
developed, because a fierce class struggle still goes on for 
the final eradication of the class enemy, for the consolida- 
tion and completion of the foundations of socialist economy, 
for the transference of the poorest and middle strata of the 
peasantry on to the path of socialist economy. As the ener- 
gizing negative of the contradictions of N.E.P., socialist 
construction emerges, negating in its very movement the 
given form of its development, i.e. N.E.P. The entry into 
the period of socialism is the entry into the period of final 
resolution of the basic contradictions of N.E.P. Whereas 
the " negation " of war communism proceeded on the 
basis of the law-systems of N.E.P.,. the " negation of the 
negation " denotes the transition to the new law-system 
of socialism, on the basis of which the movement of the 
whole system of social relationships in the XJ.S.b.K. is 
proceeding, the capitalist classes are being liquidated and 
the edifice of socialist society is being raised. 

The new emerges through leaps. Negation and negation 
of negation express themselves as this interruption of con- 
tinuity, as manifestations of that new law-system which 
breaks down the old form of contradiction, but m the 
synthesis the old contradiction is itself broken down 



together with that contradiction which had served it as a 
premise and starting-point. Only concrete analysis can show 
how far opposites are overcome in the synthesis and to what 
extent they are " preserved." Concrete analysis shows that 
the resolution of the problem of who is to survive does not 
yet denote the abolition of N.E.P. as a whole; it shows 
that we have entered into a period of socialism and 
together with it into the last stage of N.E.P., that N.E.P. 
will be finally overcome in a developed socialist society. 
But the entry into the period of socialism also denotes 
that the development of the U.S.S.R. proceeds not on 
the basis of law-systems that are characteristic of the 
first stages of N.E.P., but on the basis of the law-systems 
of socialism that subjugate to themselves the law-systems 
of N.E.P. 

The Right, taking its stand on positions of mechanistic 
methodology, could not understand the dialectic of a 
socialism that was interwoven with the last stage of N.E.P. 
They saw the presence of N.E.P. and denied that the 
U.S.S.R. had entered the period of socialism. They did 
not even notice the " negation of the negation " in relation 
to war communism, and the historic synthesis involved. 
Counter-revolutionary Trotskyism, like international capi- 
talism and social reformism, also denies the entry of the 
U.S.S.R. into the period of socialism. 

Neither the Right nor the Left understand the 
dialectic of social development as a succession of stages 
proceeding through a number of dialectical negations. And 
so, essentially, both these and others see nothing but a 
dilemma — either N.E.P. or socialism, and propose its 
solution in different ways. 

The vulgar theory of evolution, based on mechanistic 
methodology, and that equally vulgar theory of absolute 
leaps which is based on the same foundation, cannot, there- 
fore, explain the emergence of the new, nor disclose the 
essence of the problem of historic synthesis, i.e. the essence 
of the law of negation of negation. 

Not only mechanists but also the Menshevist idealists 


have failed to interpret the problem of synthesis as the 
problem of emergence of the new and so have lapsed into 
an eclectic understanding of synthesis. 

The negation of the negation — the synthesis, the new — 
does not emerge as they suppose by way of a simple uniting, 
concord, reconciliation, or external combination of oppo- 
sites. Such a mechanistic interpretation of synthesis is mere 
eclecticism. When Lenin discusses the debate on trade 
unions during which conflicting view-points emerged he 
criticizes the eclecticism of Bukharin, who voiced a pro- 
posal to unite both the policy of the Central Committee 
and the policy of Trotsky. Lenin showed that the essence 
of the question was not to unite two opposite view- 
points. Every object or phenomenon has many opposite 
aspects and alternative ways of being described. However, 
in a concrete situation it is important to find that " new 
thing " which emerges as the progressive step in the mutual 
action of these aspects, it is important to disclose the new as 
the law of the movement of the whole. The eclectic cannot 
disclose this new progressive beginning. 

The group of Menshevist idealists has on this question of 
synthesis lapsed into mechanism. It is sufficient to point to 
Deborin who understood under synthesis a fusion of oppo- 
site aspects. In his Introduction to the Philosophy of Dialectical 
Materialism Deborin depicts the philosophy of Marx as a 
synthesis of empiricism and rationalism, of French materi- 
alism and Hegelian idealistic dialectic. This is sufficient to 
show that the emergence of the new, which it is the whole 
achievement of Marx-Leninism to explain, is not disclosed 
by stating the question in this eclectic fashion. Dialectical 
materialism is not a mere synthesis of empiricism and 
rationalism; it overcomes their one-sidedness, their separa- 
tion of sense experience and rational construction. It does 
not deny them, for they are equally essential moments in 
knowledge, nor does it preserve them as a permanent 
element in a final philosophy. 

In the law of the negation of the negation the law of 
unity and conflict of opposites is made concrete as the law 


of the resolution of old contradictions and of the emergence 
of new ones. Engels sees in this the essence of the law of the 
negation of the negation. He writes : 

"A true, natural, historic and dialectical negation is 
(formally) the initial impulse of every development — the 
division into opposites, their conflict and resolution, in 
which (in history partly, in thought fully), on the basis 
of actual experience, the starting-point is reached anew, 
but at a higher stage." 1 

Engels in the passage quoted indicates one more aspect of 
the law of negation of the negation — the return to the begin- 
ning. This problem also is treated in different ways by the 
two opposite conceptions of development. 

In his notes to Hegel's logic, Lenin enumerates and 
characterizes the elements of dialectic; he writes on the 
issue of development that in the higher stage there is " a 
repetition ... of certain features and properties of the 
lower " and "a return as it were to the old " (a negation 
of negation) . 

Here is stressed the internal connection of the different 
. stages of development, the problem of the " sublation " of 
the lowest stage of development within the higher. We 
discussed this above when we disclosed the dialectical 
character of negation. But along with it Lenin now sets 
the problem of the return " as it were to the old," to the 
beginning of the process, the problem of the fact that 
synthesis and thesis are analogous to each other. 

In the Dialectic of Nature, Engels sketches a general 
picture of the development of our knowledge, enumerating 
its basic stages. At first the elemental dialectic of the 
Greek philosophers ; then the period of its negation — the 
long domination of metaphysics ; and at last the negation 
of the negation— the dialectical method as the overcomer 
of metaphysics, evoked by the growth of the internal contra- 
dictions of metaphysics, by its impotence, its inability to cope 
1 Anti-Diikring. 


systematically with the accumulated material of the natural 
and social sciences. This contradiction requires " a return 
in some or other form from metaphysical thought to 

" And here we are back again," writes Engels, " at 
the conceptions of the great founders of Greek philosophy, 
namely that all nature, from its smallest particular to 
its greatest bodies, from a grain of sand to the sun, is in 
eternal emergence and annihilation, in ceaseless flow, in 
incessant movement and change." 

But is there a difference between the view of the Greek 
dialecticians on development and modern dialectic ? There 
is an essential difference. " What with the Greeks was an 
inspired guess, is with us the result of strictly scientific 
experimental investigation and therefore has a much more 
clear and definite form." The dialectic of the Greeks was 
not developed or based on the development of all the 
sciences. The return to dialectic proceeds on a new basis, 
on the basis of the very rich development of experimental 
knowledge, of natural science and of social science. 

What exactly is the relation of synthesis to the previous 
stages ? On the subject of the relation of thesis and anti- 
thesis as seen in the relation of Greek philosophy to meta- 
physics, Engels argues that the metaphysical denial of the 
Greek doctrine of flux was true in relation to details, but 
the notion of flux is finally seen to be true as regards the 
metaphysical philosophy as a whole. The synthesis indeed 
consists in the return to the whole, which is now enriched 
and differentiated by the development of all science. 

But how is a return to the beginning possible ? It is pos- 
sible only in virtue of the fact that the final point is the 
completion of the processes within the given law-system 
and becomes the point of departure of a new law-system, or 
of a new cycle. Thus proceeds the development of a plant 
(seed — plant — seeds). Thus proceeds the development of 
the forms of property (communal — private — social). Thus 


proceeds the development of knowledge of actuality 
(primitive dialectic — metaphysic — dialectical materialism) . 
Each particular stage in the processes indicated itself dis- 
integrates (because of the development of internal contra- 
dictions) into the more partial thesis and antithesis and 
finds a new completion in a synthesis that raises the whole 
system to a higher stage. Thus the contradictions of private 
ownership found their logical partial solution in the slave- 
owning, feudal, capitalist form of property. Because of the 
fact that each phenomenon in the course of its develop- 
ment brings forth its own opposite, and this latter is in turn 
converted into its opposite, there is a regression to a number 
of the features of the external form of the initial stage, now 
enriched by all the succeeding development. 

" Processes," wrote Engels, in Anti-Duhring, " which are 
antagonistic in their nature, contain in themselves a 
contradiction, a conversion of a known extreme into its 
opposite and finally as the basis of all — a negation of 

In other words, in any process, in virtue of its division 
into mutually-exclusive opposites and of the further resolu- 
tion of this contradiction, there proceeds a double contra- 
diction. All contradictory processes in nature and in society, 
by appearing as an expression of a negation, negate them- 
selves by the further development of their contradictions. 
The double contradiction is the general form of movement 
of all actuality. It denotes the resolution of the contradic- 
tion, the completion of the process of development of the 
given essential unity of opposites, the return (as regards 
its external form) to the point of departure of the develop- 
ment. As regards its external form negation of negation 
denotes a breaking down of the negation, and consequently 
a return to the original position; as regards its content, 
negation of negation contains in itself all the positive 
material of the foregoing development. 

And so synthesis breaks down within itself the previous 
stage and returns as it were to the thesis, but to a thesis 
enriched by the development of the antithesis. In such a 



conception of returning to the beginning the difference 
between the dialectical doctrine of development and the 
metaphysical theory of cycles can be seen. The mechanistic 
theory of cycles in the eighteenth century affirmed that in 
nature and in society there is continuously proceeding a 
return to the starting-point, a simple repetition of the begin- 
ning. Thus all societies, when they raise themselves from 
primitive savagery to modern culture, reach the highest 
points of their development and pass again into decline. 
The next cycle begins again from the lowest degree, from 
savagery. Thus proceeds so-called development in the 
animal world. Animal species multiply, develop and perish. 
The next generations repeat the same cycle. The mechan- 
istic theory of cycles does not notice that development is 
not a simple repetition, that a " cycle " expresses only the 
external form of development. Cycles do not exclude a 
movement to a higher level. The cycle of life, of living 
organisms, did not exclude the development of the world 
of animals. On the basis of the ruin and decline of many 
ancient cultures, society has proceeded to its higher stages, 
to more progressive forms. This of course does not exclude 
the possibility of a retrogressive movement in particular 
historic periods, of particular peoples, or of society as a 
whole. The mechanistic theory of cycles shows a lack of 
understanding of what the doctrine of synthesis makes so 
clear, that while we return as it were to the point of 
departure, we emerge at the same time as the product of 
enriched development, and at a higher level. 

Hegel, speaking of the synthesis of ideas, wrote, that in it 
" the whole mass of its previous content is raised, and 
through its dialectical course forwards so far from losing 
anything, from leaving anything behind, it brings with* 
itself all it has acquired and enriches and expounds its own 
being." 1 What was represented by Hegel as the self- 
development of idea appears in reality only as the enrich- 
ment of our knowledge at each new stage of development 
of social polity, as the reflection of that new aspect of 
1 Science of Logic, part ii. 


actuality. The dialectical theory of cycles shows how 
processes in their development are raised from step to 
step. In place of the mechanistic theory of a cycle, dialectic 
bases the theory of development upon the motion of a 
spiral. Development is accomplished in circles, but the 
final point of the circle does not coincide with the begin- 
ning, but stands above the point of departure of the cyclic 
process. Synthesis emerges as the point of departure of 
further development, consequently as thesis in the new 
process of the cycle. 

Development proceeds by spirals. The return to the 
point of departure is a return in external form, but is 
distinct because of its enriched content, its internal structure. 
Lenin in One Step Forward, Two Steps Back, vividly dis- 
closes the dialectical character of the Party conflict at the 
Second Congress of the Party, between the revolutionary 
and opportunist wings of the Party. Lenin analyses the 
basic groups at the Congress — they are " Iskra "i sup- 
porters of the majority, of the minority and of the centre, 
and the anti-" Iskra ." group. He shows how according 
to the measure of the intensification and growth of dis- 
agreements on principle the composition of the majority 
and minority at the Congress was changed. The original 
majority at the Congress united all the " Iskra " supporters 
and a large part of the centre against the anti-" Iskra " 
group in the vote on questions not dealing with fundamental 

1 Iskra (lit. " The Spark "), the famous newspaper which was to be 
" a red-hot spark flung into the tinder pile of the Russian Empire." 
This paper came under the control of Lenin and his group before the 
split in the Russian Social Democratic Party. At the Party Congress 
which concluded its sittings at the Brotherhood Church, Southgate 
Road, London, in 1903, a fierce struggle took place between Lenin's 
" bolshevik " policy as set forth in Iskra and the " menshevik" policy of 
Martov and Trotsky. Plekhanov and Lenin insisted on a highly disci- 
plined Party entirely distinct from the liberals. This is the famous 
Clause 1 which Lenin speaks of in One Step Forward, Two Steps Back. The 
elections to the Central Committee also gave a majority to Lenin's group, 
but the minority refused to submit, won over Plekhanov and seceded. 
The result was that the mensheviks seized the party machine and became 
the larger of the two parties. Lenin and the bolsheviks were few and 
isolated for some time. 


principles. On questions of organization all the " Iskra " 
supporters voted against the centre and the anti-" Iskra " 
group. Later, on quite a number of questions there began 
a movement of part of the " Iskra " supporters, both of the 
majority and minority, to the side of the anti-" Iskra " 
group and the centre; so the majority became a minority. 
The voting on the first paragraph of the programme 
sharply stressed the division into revolutionary and oppor- 
tunist wings. Against the revolutionary wing voted the 
anti-" Iskra " group, an important part of the centre, 
almost all the minority supporters of " Iskra " and the 
vacillating members of the pro-" Iskra " majority. The 
majority became the minority, and the minority the majority. At 
last with the departure of the anti-" Iskra " group from the 
Congress the vote on the election of the Central Committee 
gave the victory to the majority group of the " Iskra " 
supporters against the minority groups and the centre 
and this denoted the final division of the Congress into its 
majority and minority. 

Summing up the Congress, Lenin wrote : 

" The development actually went by the dialectical 
path, by the path of contradictions, the minority became 
the majority, the majority became the minority, each side 
went over from defence to attack and from attack to 
defence ; the point of departure of the conflict of pure ideas 
(Clause 1 of the Programme) ' negated itself and yielded 
place to a dispute that involved the whole Congress, 
but thereupon the ' negation of negations ' began and 
we returned to the point of departure of the conflict 
of pure idea ; but now this ' thesis ' was enriched by all 
the results of the ' antithesis ' and was transformed into 
a higher synthesis, in which the isolated, fortuitous error 
on Clause 1 had grown into a system of opportunist views 
on the organization problem, so that the connection 
between this phenomenon and the basic division of our 
party into revolutionary and opportunist wings became 
more and more apparent to all. In a word, not only does 


the seed grow according to Hegel, but the Russian 
Social Democrats fight each other according to Hegel." 1 

The law of negation emerges as the further concretization 
of the law of the unity of opposites. It appears as the 
general law of development of processes in nature, in 
society and in our thought. Along with the other basic 
laws of dialectic it discloses the forms of the development of 
the contradictory processes of actuality and is a metho- 
dological implement of our knowledge that helps us to see 
the perspectives of historical and scientific changes and 
consciously to influence their transition from one stage to 
another, from one phase of the contradiction to its higher 

Lenin, One Step Forward, Two Steps Back. 







" Adam," capitalist, 167 
Adler, Max, 107 
Alchemists, 222 
Alexander, 12 
Aristotle, 22 
Avenarius, 19, 66, 119 
Avogadro, 34.9 
Axelrod, 1, 96, 107 
Ayer, 17, 18 

Bacon, 41, 42, 77 

Basle manifesto, 128 

Belitisky, 62 

Bergson, 56, 57, 1 19 

Berkeley, 44, 52, 54, 55, 58, 67, 

77, 93, 102 
Bogdanov, 113-4, 1.19, 123, 138, 

I93> 199-200 
Bosanquet, 68 
Boyle, 223, 224 
Bradley, 14, 21, 68, 149 
Brest Litovsk, 313 
Bruhl, 20 
Bukharin, 38, 113, 138, 172, 175, 

i97> !99> 201, 261, 335, 375-7= 


Cantor, 76 . 
Cartwright, 148 
Chesterton, 26 
Croce, 19 
Cromwell, 275 

Dante, 41 

Darwin, 236 

Deborin, 131, 183, 192, 206, 298, 

33 1 > 338, 380 
Democritus, 136-7 
Descartes, 34, 42-4, 51, 53~4> 5 8 > 

96, 98, 137, 224, 226, 235, 237 
Dewey, 88-9 

Diderot, 47 
Dietzgen, 270 
Diihring, 135, 198-9 
Durkheim, 20 

Eddington, ig, 66 
Egypt, 222-3 
ENGELS, see p. 393 
Epicurus, 91 

Falstabf, 105 

Feuerbach, 64, 65, 76, 100-1, 10S, 

108, in 
Fichte, 57, 81 
Friedrich Wilhelm III, 60 
Frumkin, 335 

Galileo, 36, 224, 225 
Gassendi, 137 
Gentile, 149 
Goethe, 256 
Gorky, 314 

Hart, 67-8 

Harvey, 226 

HEGEL, see p. 394 

Belmholtz, 95, 106 

Helvetius, 46 

Heraclitus, 58, 139, 212 

Hitler, 338 

Hobbes, 119 

Holbach, 46-7 

Hume, 54, 76, 81, 93, 119, 125 

" ISKRA," 385 

James, William, 84, : 
Joad, 68 




Quickly, Mistress, 105 

Rhenish Gazette, 64 

Ricardo, 117, 154 

Rousseau, 80 

Russell, Bertrand, 18, 19, 39, 76 

488, 320 


77= 9 r > 93> 94= ng 

- P- 397 
--v, 352 

/■sky, 220, 371 
224, 248 
ni, 86, 338 

JLEON, 2l8 

■tune, 352 
tvton, 46, 139 

Sarabyanov, 241-2, 376-7 

Schelling, 57 

Schiller, 84 

Schlick, 18 

Schmidt, Conrad, 258 

Sechenov, 95 

Sellars, 12 

Shaw, 29 

Smith, Adam, 117, 154 

Spencer, Herbert, 26,* 138, 198, 


Spengler, 81 

Spinoza, 34, 44, 53-4, 57-8, 65, 96, 

97, 227, 249 
STALIN, see p. 399 
Stepanov, 334 

Taylor, 27 
Tennessee Valley, 15 
Torricelli, 226 
Trendelenburg, 150 
Troeltsch, 19 

Trotsky, 38, 117, 123, 160, 173, 
220, 261, 325, 339, 340, 353-4 

Patini, 86 

Parmenides, 136, 145 
Pavlov, 331 
Petzoldt, 119 
Plato, 11, 21,29,34, 91 
PLEKHANOV, see p. 
Pirandello, 85 
Poincare, 66 
Protagoras, 94 
Proudhon, 142 
Pythagoras, 333-4 

Oberweg, 150 
Ulysses, 28 

Whitehead, 19, 
Wittgenstein, 18 

Zeitlin, 102, 333-4. 
Zeno,_gi, 92, 139, 145 
Zinoviev, 240 




Quotations : 

Eternal cycle of matter 

Criterion of practice 

Development of organic chemistry 

Darwin's theory of struggle for existence compared with 

bourgeois economic theories of competition 
Helmholtz ...... 

Characterization of scientific knowledge 
Notion of the causal connection of phenomena 
Basic contradiction of modern society . 
Dialectic ...... 

World not composed of ready-made objects . 
Movement ...... 

Letter to Conrad Schmidt 

Universal connection .... 

Definition of "the object" with which natural science deals 

Co-ordination of the sense organs 

Means of demonstrating correctness of a conception of a 

Dialectical philosophy 
Enumeration of objects 

Systematic order of bodies 
Non-existence of qualities as such 
Links in development 

Destiny of the state-machine 
" A return to Pythagoras " 
Life .... 

Organic and inorganic bodies 
Interconnection of the sciences 

page 70, 71, 328 

75= 76 





241, 257 










Kagakovitch, 189 

Kant, 34, 54, 55, 56, 57, 65, 67, 

75> 76, 3i, 91, 98, 125, 139, 140 
Karev, 183 
Kautsky, 115, 117, 189, 219, 345, 

366-7, 375 
Krupskaya, 370 

La Mettrie, 47 

Lassalle, 142, 339 

Lavoisier, 1 18, 285-6, 288, 320 

Leibnitz, 96-8, 100, 253-5 

LENIN, see p. 395 

Le Roy, 66 

Leucippus, 136-7 

Leverrier, 352 

Lloyd Morgan, 12 

Locke, 49, 51, 55, 91 

Luppol, 183 

Mach, 19, 66, 77, 91, 93, 94, 119 
Malthus, 345 
Martin, 22 
MARX, see p. 397 
Mendeleyev, 35s 
Mikhailovsky, 220, 371 
Moliere, 224, 248 
Mussolini, 86, 338 

Napoleon, 218 
Neptune, 352 
Newton, 46, 139 

Patini, 86 

Parmenides, 136, 145 

Pavlov, 331 

Petzoldt, 119 

Plato, 11, 21, 29, 34, 91 

PLEKHANOV, see p. 398 

Pirandello, 85 

Poincare, 66 

Protagoras, 94 

Proudhon, 142 

Pythagoras, 333-4 


Quickly, Mistress, 105 

Rhenish Gazette, 64 

Ricardo, 117, 154 

Rousseau, 80 

Russell, Bertrand, 18, 19, 39, 76 

Sarabyanov, 241—2, 376—7 

Schelling, 57 

Schiller, 84 

Schlick, 18 

Schmidt, Conrad, 258 

Sechenov, 95 

Sellars, ia 

Shaw, 29 

Smith, Adam, 117, 154 

Spencer, Herbert, 26, 138, ic 

Spengler, 81 
Spinoza, 34, 44, 53-4, 57-8, 65, c 

97, 227, 249 
STALIN, see p. 399 
Stepanov, 334 

Taylor, 27 
Tennessee Valley, 15 
Torricelli, 226 
Trendelenburg, 150 
Troeltsch, 19 

Trotsky, 38, 117, 123, 160, 173, 
220, 261, 325, 339, 340, 353-4 

Uberweg, 150 
Ulysses, 28 

Whitehead, 19, 28 
Wittgenstein, 18 

Zeitlin, 102, 333-4 
Zeno, 91, 92, 139, 145 
Zinoviev, 240 

page 70, 71, 328 
75, 76 




Quotations : 

Eternal cycle of matter 

Criterion of practice 

Development of organic chemistry 

Darwin's theory of struggle for existence compared with 

bourgeois economic theories of competition 
Helmholtz . . . 

Characterization of scientific knowledge 
Notion of the causal connection of phenomena 
Basic contradiction of modern society . 
Dialectic ...... 

World not composed of ready-made objects . 
Movement ...... 

Letter to Conrad Schmidt 

Universal connection .... 

Definition of ' ' the object " with which natural science deals 

Co-ordination of the sense organs 

Means of demonstrating correctness of a conception of a 

Dialectical philosophy 
Enumeration of objects 

Systematic order of bodies 
Non-existence of qualities as such 
Links in development 

Destiny of the state-machine 
" A return to Pythagoras " 
Life .... 

Organic and inorganic bodies 
Interconnection of the sciences 



241, 257 








gg4 INDEX 

Quotations — contd. 

Scientific development . . . - • page 351 

Mendeleyev ....--•• 352 

The natural system . • .... . 354 _ 5 

Social property ....... 364 

Negation ......--• 368 

Illustration from barley seed . - • - 371 

Illustration from butterflies ..... 372 

Illustration from dahlia and orchid , . - • • 372 

Essence of law of negation of negation . . • • 381 

Return to conceptions of founders of Greek philosophy . 382 

Antagonistic processes ...... 383 

References : 

Referred to by Lenin . . - - • • J 49 

General picture of the development of knowledge . . 381 


Quotations : 

Succession of philosophic systems 
Contradiction the root of all systems 
Exploitation of forces of nature . 
Quality ...... 

Properties and the existence of an object 
Transition of quantity into quality 
Quoted by Lenin .... 

Cited by Lenin ... 

Synthesis of ideas • ■ ■ 

References : 

Universal connection 
Absolute spirit 
Cause of historic process 

The real and the rational 
Ambiguity of his philosophy 
Criticized by Feuerbach 
Reproaches Kant 
Criticized by Feuerbach . . - • - 99 

Attempt to express absolute knowledge idealistically 
Development by means of contradictions 
Marx and Engels first to show revolutionary implications 
of Hegelian philosophy . 
















References — contd. 

Essence of dialectic . 

Expounded by Plekhanov 

Great service of 

Adapted by Deborin . 

Adapted by Bukharin 

Agrees with Spinoza 

Notes by Lenin on Hegelian dialectic . 

Quantity " indifferent " to definiteness of the object 

Definition of quantity . ... 

Connection of quantitative and qualitative changes 
Ideology of fascism due to . . ... 

Application by Deborin ..... 

Hegelian self-movement criticized by Kautsky 
Sublation . . . . . . 

Note by Lenin to Hegel's " Logic " . . 

Conflict of Second Party Congress " according to Hegel 

page 146 



Quotations : 

Idealism ....... 

Kant's philosophy . . . . 

The proletariat ..... 

Pragmatism ...... 

Development of knowledge 

Zeno ....... 

Mach . 

Criticizes Plekhanov ..... 
Actuality reflected by ideas more truly than by 

sentations . . . . . . 

" Eternal " Forms of logical thought . 
Practice superior to theoretical knowledge 
Source of truth ..... 

Plekhanov's programme for Second Party Congress 

Relativity and absoluteness of truth . 

Attempt of Second International to refute the Basle 

Manifesto ...... 

Complete knowledge of object unattainable . 
Two fundamental conceptions of development 
Movement and self-movement 
Essence of dialectic ..... 



105, 106 

113. "5 

124, 125 


396 INDEX 

Quotations — contd. 

Knowledge ..... 

Identity of opposites . • - 

Contradictions of capitalism 

Definition of dialectic 

When it is possible to unite opposites . 

Antagonism and contradiction not the same 

Capital, by Marx .... 

Unity and conflict of opposites 

Eternal preservation of small-scale production 

Need for scrutiny of the thing itself 

Human practice and the objective world 

Origin of revolution . 

Proletarian dictatorship 

Materialist revision of Hegel's dialectic 

Dialectic not the same as relativism 

Dreams of world-harmony . 

Dual existence of every concrete thing . 

Universal connection 

Unity of self-movement and general connect: 

Notes on Hegelian dialectic 

Purposeful action . . • ' • 

Citation of Dietzgen 

Definition of the finite 

Characteristic of capitalism 

Free competition .... 

Imperialism . . - - 

Leap not an instantaneous change 

Three principal phases in history of monopolies 

Difference in attitude of revisionists and anarchist- 
syndicalists ..... 

Human history as well as nature includes both leaps and 
slow evolution 


Workers' movement .... 

Grave-digger of capitalism . 

A co-operative .... 

Key to " leaps," etc. .... 

Relation of reform to revolution . . 

Citation of Hegel .... 

Leap from capitalism to socialism 

Act of birth . . 

Transitional period .... 

Relative weakness of the new 


page 148 


J55= i5 6 




25 1 
, 261 

29 r 




3 J 3 




Quotations — contd . 

Stages of the transition to socialism 

Transition of qualities, etc., into their opposites 

Mathematics indifferent to quality 

Use of statistics . . 

Bourgeois representation of socialism as a rigid 

system .... 

Transition of capitalism to imperialism 
Measurement .... 
Basic trait of opportunism . 
Dialectical materialism 
Dialectical " moment " 
Negation . . . . 

Development .... 
Summing up of the voting of the Second Congress 

References : 

Machism ........ 

Disclosure of qualitative uniqueness of processes or things 

Transition of quantity into quality 

Soviet state a " half state " 

Great contribution of 

Debate on trade unions 

" Iskra " and ami-" Iskra " groups 










Quotations : 

Division of labour 

On Hegelian dialectic 

Breaks with the " free men " 

Objective truth 

" Thingified " character of production relations 

Distortion of relations of society . 

Fetishistic form of relations of capitalist production 

Utopian Socialism 

Mistress Quickly 

Education of the five senses 

Proletariat and riches are contradictory 

Essence of dialectical movement 

Classless society 

Foreword to Volume I of Capital . 

Reflex relations 

Exploitation offerees of nature . 


6oj 61 

63, 64 











235: 236 

3 g8 INDEX 

Quotations — contd. 

Labour a process between man and nature 

Incorporation of labour 

Development of social man ■ 

Limits of magnitude of capitalist enterprise . 

Production in general • • - - 

Transition from small-scale to capitalist production 

Epochs of economic history 

" Historic tendency of capitalist accumulation " 

Private ownership of means of production 

Criticism of Hegel . - •' • 

References : 

Derivation from Hegel . 

Differs from Hegel 

Shaw's comment on . 

Cause of historic process . - ^- 

Reveals weakness of Feuerbach's position 

Materialism prior to Marx . 

Process of labour - • 

Criterion of practice • 

Capitalist relations . 

Cited by Lenin 

Economical survey of history by 

Theory of value . • • • • 

Birth pangs connected with transition of capitalism into 

socialism ..■•-• 

Use of mathematical formulae 
Pre-history and real history 

Categories of Capital to be explained by electrons 
Explained by Zeitlin . ■ ■ .'"<■'■ 

Law of population . - - • 

Quotations : 

From Idealism to Materialism an excerpt 
Uberweg .-•■■•■■ 
Exposition of Hegel ■ • • • • 
Wrong approach to dialectic . ■ • - 
Incomprehension of Marx-Leninist view of movement 
Criticizes Mikhailovsky 

References : 

Mechanical interpretation of contradiction . 
Theory of hieroglyphs ..... 

page 268 

268, 269 






359- 6 2 

363= 364 











• " !5! 

. 164, 232 




Quotations : 

Possibility of sociali victory in one country . 




N.E.P. . 


Example of mutuapenetration of opposites . 165, 



Difficulties of devepment of Russian socialist economy . 



Theory of equilibnm .... 


" We are for the rtinction of the state " 


Issue from the trasition period . 


Collective farms .... 


Importance of prctical knowledge 



References : 

The transitionaLconomy ....•• 


Proletariat of UJ.S.R. 


Six Conditions - 


Amplification oiMarx 


, 180 

Basis of instructons of 


Dialectic of traditional period 


Failures of indistrial planning 


Kulak question 


Transition to dveloped socialism